“I was just in Harry’s kitchen, and he chugged a big tall glass of miraLAX,” CBS’ “Evening News” anchor Katie Couric told us. She’d stopped by “Early Show” co-anchor Harry Smith’s apartment on her way home after the newscast to give him some advice and words of encouragement.
Smith was prepping himself for the colonoscopy he’d be undergoing the next morning live on “The Early Show.” “The night before is when you do your prep,” Couric said. “We’re trying to take people through the process. I’m like a colonoscopy tour guide.”
In 2000, Couric famously taped an on-camera colonscopy for NBC’s “Today” show. The segment is credited with starting the “Couric-effect,” a spike in the colonoscopy rate. She’s referred to it as her “proudest accomplishment” in the past.
In fact, Couric was the one that asked Smith to have the live colonoscopy in the first place. “Katie came to me and asked me about it,” Smith told TVNewser. “It so happened that I’d had a physical a year ago and the only thing that was incomplete was this. I thought, why not do it?”
He also said knowing about the “Couric-effect” played a part in his decision to go through with the exam on the air. “This is a moment in morning television you can be an advocate,” he said. “It can save lives. It was a no brainer.”
Smith’s live colonoscopy will make “TV history,” but he joked, “It’s not exactly the first color telecast.” He pointed to what Couric had done as an important step. “You have to continually remind people of this kind of screening,” Couric said. “It’s so ‘easy’ to put it off.”
Couric told us she was nervous when she did hers, but Smith seemed pretty unphased about the procedure. He’d already been through the process once, though not on live television. “The only pain in the neck is drinking all this stuff the night before,” he said. “Maybe if I’d never had one before I’d look at it differently. It’s not that big a deal.”
While the actual procedure may not be a big deal, its results can be. “Neither of us is losing sight of the message,” Couric said. Colorectal cancer is a leading cancer-killer in the United States and a colonoscopy can reveal early warning signs.
It’s a cause Couric became a prominent spokesperson for after her husband, Jay Monahan, passed away at age 42, a year after being diagnosed with colon cancer. “I feel, in fact, that I have a moral obligation to warn people about this because of my personal experience of losing someone I love to colon cancer,” she said. “It’s always been a bittersweet effort on my part. You can’t change past, but maybe you can change future for some family.”
“We do a lot of other stuff in morning television,” Smith said. “Some of it’s goofy. Some is dumb. Some is good journalism. This is just a good thing to do.”
Update: “I can always say for the rest of my life: Katie Couric hosted my colonoscopy,” Smith said this morning on “The Early Show” in the lead up to the procedure. Couric and Smith spent much of the program laughing.
“There are so many jokes that go with this,” Smith remarked. (For example, after Davie Price wisecracked that he forecasted a “full moon” over the hospital, Couric responded by saying, “Hey Dave, I heard when they did your colonoscopy they actually found your head.”) Couric told viewers, “It’s important to have a sense of humor about this.”
Clip below of Smith undergoing the procedure (for AFTER breakfast only):