Who’s Responsible for the Boozy 4th Hour of the Today Show?

By Brian Flood 

Kathie Lee Gifford thought she’d host the 4th hour of the Today show for about a year, “but I fell in love with an Egyptian woman,” she joked.

“I just love spending my days with her,” said Gifford, referring to co-host Hoda Kotb. In March, Gifford will celebrate eight years with Today. Kotb’s been a part of it even longer, since its launch in September of 2007.

We caught up with Gifford and Kotb Monday afternoon at the swanky Rooftop Bar at 230 Fifth as they taped NBC’s year-end special A Toast to 2015!  airing on New Year’s Eve.

Gifford, who joked about being the oldest member of the Today show following the retirement of Willard Scott, has no plans to leave.

“We’ll know when it’s right,” she said. “I think as long as we’re having fun,” Kotb added.

Gifford famously co-hosted Live! with Regis and Kathie Lee for 15 years, but she thinks her on-air chemistry with Kotb is just as strong as it was with Regis Philbin.

“I never thought I could do television at that level before and Hoda and I didn’t do it at that level at the beginning. It took a while,” she said. “It’s déjà vu all over again. I’m so blessed catching lightning in a bottle twice in my life,” Gifford said.

Even after they started to gel, Kotb and Gifford never thought their corner of the morning would become such a big part of the culture. “I knew we could have a good show, but I didn’t know if we could have a hit show,” Gifford said. “Not at 10 o’clock in the morning. That’s like the worst time in the world to get people to turn on the TV.”

“If you told us in year one that we’d be sitting here together in year eight? I mean, who would have thought that?” Kotb said.

As for the wine that Kotb and Gifford drink on air, they consider it a “prop” and are “fascinated” they don’t get much criticism about it. “We still don’t drink. We sip it,” they say. Either way, it’s all Chelsea Handler‘s fault.

“Chelsea was on and had a new book out ‘Are You There, Vodka? It’s me, Chelsea’ so our producers made a bunch of vodka cocktails for her. We didn’t think anything of it. The next week Brooke Shields shows up and said ‘I saw Chelsea, where is my cocktail?’ Then Joel McHale showed up with his own bottle of Hennessy and it became a party. The producers realized this is something we should incorporate,” said Kotb and Gifford, one finishing the other’s thoughts.

While a producer tried to pull them away to tape another segment of the New Year’s special, Kotb and Gifford first gave us their thoughts on their new boss.

“I feel like the minute Andy Lack came, something happened,” said Kotb, who worked with Lack during his first run at NBC News. “It was like a shot of adrenaline. It’s a weird stability that was missing and almost like you could feel an exhale and you could feel the tone change.” Gifford added: “He came in with incredible confidence and boom! Who could have predicted that Lester Holt would be No. 1 and Today would be doing so well after the tumultuous times? It’s amazing to watch the turnaround since Andy got in the driver’s seat and everything changed.”