After Contract Extension, Matt Lauer Celebrates 20 Years on Today

By A.J. Katz 

NBC News celebrated Matt Lauer’s 20 years as Today co-anchor on Friday, and it seemed apropos that his original partner-in-crime, Katie Couric, was beside him for the festivities.

“So many high points and so many low points,” Couric said as the show opened. “I’m just so excited to celebrate you.”

Al Roker summed up their relationship succinctly: “Abbott and Costello, Laurel and Hardy, Lauer and Al Roker!”

Roker, Couric and Carson Daly shared their favorite Lauer memories during this morning’s program. Couric chose the time Lauer went bobsledding with Roker at the Winter Olympics in 2006. Roker chose the time Lauer went surfing with Sir Richard Branson in 2004. Daly, one of the newer members of the Today team, chose the time the guys went fishing together in 2014:

Viewers recalled their favorite Lauer moments by using the hashtag #ML20, and most often cited Lauer’s “Where in the World?” adventures, and of course his legendary J-Lo Halloween costume from 2000.

Lauer signed a contract extension with NBC News last fall, keeping at the Today show for another 2 years.

His NBC News colleague Tom Brokaw also provided a taped congratulations, praising his colleague’s ability to be a tough interviewer.

“The toughness comes with the questions,”Brokaw said. “He doesn’t allow you any wiggle room.”

NBC Nightly News anchor Lester Holt sent out a tweet not long ago:

Elton John, Tom Hanks, Jon Hamm, Annette BeningKevin Hart, Jay Leno, Howard Stern and Ellen DeGeneres were among the celebrities who also showed love for Lauer.

“I think what we all need to notice in this particular situation is that you’re getting old,” Hart said. “Happy 75th birthday and 20th anniversary on the Today show — this is a double bang for you.”

“Matt Lauer, congrats on 20 years,” said Hanks. “You have done a service to all mankind, and to all men in America, when you said good-bye to the hair without regrets.”

Here’s a look at Lauer’s first day as co-anchor back in 1997:

Many members of the Today on-air family surprised Lauer in the Studio 1A plaza towards the end of the program, including his current co-anchor Savannah Guthrie, who is out on maternity leave (and later tweeted she was happy back at home in sweat pants.)

The team headed back into the studio at the end of the 8 a.m. hour, surrounded by cakes with candles and a champagne toast in honor of Lauer’s milestone and in honor of Couric’s 60th birthday (which is Saturday).

“Let’s raise a glass to Matt, the absolute class act in broadcasting, a once-in-a-generation talent, and a person I love and adore,” said Guthrie. “We all love this show deep in our hearts, and no one has carried it better than you.”

“We work with the best people, and we work for the best people. We are really blessed, we truly are,” added Lauer.

Next week the show celebrates its 65th anniversary. Meredith Vieira returns as Lauer’s co-host.