Willie Geist celebrated the first anniversary of his MSNBC show "Way Too Early" Tuesday. But in an interview with the Huffington Post, Geist revealed that he doesn't even like the mornings. Why, then, did he agree to host a show that has him waking up at 3 A.M. every day?
"I figured my life was already ruined, so if they gave me a little piece of real estate it was worth ruining it an hour earlier," he joked.
Speaking more seriously, Geist said that, if he didn't really enjoy his job--along with his other role as co-host of "Morning Joe," which airs just after "Way Too Early"--he would never, ever be awake as early as he is.
"We have the freedom to pick and say what we want and do what we want," he said. "And then on 'Morning Joe,' it's the ultimate wide-open conversation...I enjoy the shows so much, I'm so grateful that I have a job that's this much fun that it doesn't bother me."
Also, his upside-down schedule lines up pretty well with that of his two young children.
"I'm home at night for dinner, we run out to the park...all that stuff that a lot of dads miss," he said. "And frankly, I miss the morning, which can often be the worst time of the day. I'm hiding in my cubicle at MSNBC."
Geist said that he sees "Way Too Early," which airs at 5:30 every morning, as a one-stop shop, where viewers can get the full range of news.
"You get your heavy news...up top, and then as you cascade down through the show you get sports, weather, pop culture," he said.
Any audience watching a show at 5:30 A.M.--or 2:30, if they're on the West Coast--is going to be a fairly motley crew. Geist said he and his staff--he has just two people making the show with him--joke about who is tuning in at that hour. They suspect "substance abusers, shut ins, people who've been woken up by loud noises, or having night terrors," he said.
Actually, Geist said, he gets a lot of feedback from people just going to work and mothers with small children who are awake in the middle of the night, among other demographics.
Asked about his favorite moments from the show, Geist said nothing can top the first week, when a series of high-caliber guests managed to wake up and call in. Robert Gibbs was the first guest. Geist also talked to Maureen Dowd, Brian Williams and Bill Maher--who, he says, literally got out of the hot tub to chat.
But Geist's favorite guest from that week was the phone appearance by Donald Trump--if for no other reason than the fact that Trump got up that early.
"It's like Haley's Comet--you will never see that again," Geist said. "And here I am picturing him...is he in a Hanes V-neck and boxers with his hair messed up? Or does he sleep in a suit?"
None of those guests called in on Tuesday morning, when Geist celebrated the anniversary live in Times Square. However, Williams did send in a pre-taped message. So did "Today" co-hosts Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb.
In the interview, Geist said that he finally thinks the show is reaching a wider audience. He noted that, in the past week, his show's website has been the third most popular of any cable news show, behind fellow MSNBC hosts Keith Olbermann and Rachel Maddow. This, he said, is where he wants the show to be: combining a niche audience in the early mornings and a wider Web audience later in the day.
"It's kind of started to happen in the way we envisioned it to be," Geist said.