‘Morning Joe’ Mayhem at Politics & Prose

The scene was standing room only inside Politics & Prose Bookstore Thursday afternoon as the swarm of patrons awaited MSNBC “Morning Joe” Co-hosts Mika Brzezinksi and Joe Scarborough. People stuffed themselves between the bookshelves. They were spread all over the store and in rows and rows of folding chairs, all filled. As uncomfortable as the setup was, no one budged. They were there to hear Mika discuss her new book, Obsessed, about diet and her lifetime struggle with food.

In recent days Mika has been going on TV and publicly revealing details about her weight. It’s awkward, as asking a woman her weight usually comes off with a big, fat thud. The way Mika responds to the question Joe asks is telling. As part of writing the book with one of her best friends, she agreed to gain weight while her friend had to lose 75 pounds. She has allegedly gained 20 pounds and gone up two dress sizes to a size 6, a fact that still makes her visibly uncomfortable. She knows she has to answer Joe’s question. But the answer is always vague. “I working on it, but I think 133 to 135,” she tells him at Politics & Prose, which quickly becomes a Ricki Lake-like talk show as female audience members approach the microphones and reveal their own tormenting issues with food.

A woman talks about how she eats pie, even frozen. Another admits she smoked and quit and wants to know how not to plow through a bag of potato chips. And still another, a woman who was once a Rockette and on Broadway, divulges that she, too, had eating disorders that included binging and purging.

It’s intense. But this is a safe place.

And the worship factor is sky high. This is a room jammed with people who are devoted to the show and wake up with them every morning. To these people Joe and Mika are like old friends.

Joe soon launches into shocking stories of Mika’s food issues. “If you were around Mika you’d think all she ate was leaves and nuts,” he said. But then there was the time at CBS “Face the Nation” host Bob Schieffer’s symposium when they were traveling by car and Mika was in the back seat devouring tins of Mexican enchiladas suitable for a family of five. “I think there’s a raccoon,” Joe says, mimicking the noises Mika was making as she slopped up the meal. When he looks, “Mika has enchiladas on her face and was licking up the foil. We caught the raccoon.”

It was funnier than it sounds. The audience erupted into laughter as Joe made the difficult subject matter easier, complete with imitations of Mika’s parents. The point they made over and over — Mika had a wonderfully colorful, fortunate, loving upbringing, but it wasn’t easy. “Mika is very undisciplined!” Joe shrieked in a high-pitched Czech accent, mimicking Mika’s mother. And later, he told the story of Mika’s father, Zbigniew, coming on the show and insulting him, saying, “You are stunningly superficial.” Joe remarked, “Son of a bitch!”

The audience ate it up (pun intended) and burst into laughter.

They discussed the pressures of Mika growing up in such a smart, accomplished family. Joe imitated how Mika’s mother once responded to a question about Mika, saying, “Hmmm, I got it. You know, Mika had the lowest SAT scores in the history of Williams College.”

At one point Joe analyzed Mika to her face, saying, “You always felt stupid in your family. Your dad is brilliant. You always said you felt inadequate. It [food] was your emotional release.”