Not All Fun and Games For Al Roker…Just Mostly

By Chris Ariens Comment

Gail Shister
TVNewser Columnist

Weatherman. Raconteur. Chef. Cable host.


“Today” weatherguy Al Roker is shopping an animated cartoon about the life of a “major player in the culinary world” — read “chef” — as a child, he confirms.

Like any oyster with strong survival instincts, Roker’s lips are sealed about details. He will say, however, that two networks are interested “and it’s looking pretty good.”

Roker_3.3.jpgRoker’s latest extracurricular project is a three-part MSNBC series on drugs in America. Part 2, “Al Roker Reporting: Heroin, Inc.,” debuts Sunday.

Back to the fun stuff, one of Roker’s most cherished daily rituals was reading the comic strips with his dad. Roker’s favorites: Little Orphan Annie, Dick Tracy, Gasoline Alley.

“He was a gifted artist, but he couldn’t get a job as a commercial artist because he was black, so he drove a bus,” recalls Roker, 54, a New York native.

He keeps the family tradition alive by reading the Sunday comics with his daughter, Leila, 10. She likes Archie and Batman and the Nick-in-print strips.

He and his wife, ABC’s Deborah Roberts, also have a six-year-old son, Nicky. Roker has a daughter from a previous marriage – Courtney, 21, a culinary arts major. (Talk about traditions…)

Roker’s drug series grew out of a Court TV piece he did several years ago on crystal meth.

“I’m fascinated by the whole drug war,” he says. “There are a lot of stories here, whether it’s marijuana, prescription drugs or heroin.”

Sadly, the drug economy is thriving, Roker says, and will never be in need of a bailout. “They’ve got their own stimulus package, as it were.”

Because it’s a cash business, “there’s no floating of loans,” he adds. “Especially in a bad economy, people turn to something that will make them feel better. Unlike other vices, you can’t put your drugs on a credit card.”

As for legalizing marijuana for medicinal use, Roker says he has no strong feelings on either side, but “if it’s done properly, under the correct auspices, and people get some relief, then God bless.”

Back on the homefront, Roker makes dinner four or five nights a week. His best dish: roast chicken from the Zuni Café Cookbook. His guilty pleasure: Pound cake topped by fancy vanilla ice cream.

“Today” boss Jim Bell praises Roker’s barbeque skills as well as his work ethic.

“The dude makes a mean cheeseburger. You haven’t lived until you’ve had a Roker-burger — it’s the perfect marriage of fire, smoke and meat. The man’s a magician.”