Early to Rise: Willie Geist, BA’97

Willie Geist, BA’97


It’s fitting that one of the shows Willie Geist hosts on MSNBC is called Way Too Early. If there’s one gripe he has about his job, it’s the necessity of waking up in the wee hours of the morning. “When the alarm clock goes off at 3 a.m., I definitely re-evaluate my station in life,” he laughs. “I can’t sugarcoat that.”

In the same breath, though, Geist acknowledges just how fortunate he feels to be on television. “I know this sounds a little corny, but if I didn’t love my job and work with people who are genuinely my friends, it would be impossible to get out of bed so early.”

Geist’s TV career has been several years in the making, but his big break happened overnight—literally. When MSNBC dropped Don Imus’ show in April 2007 after his infamous remarks about the Rutgers women’s basketball team, network executives suddenly had three hours to fill. “The next day they threw a few of us on air and said, ‘Go! Do anything. Just talk for three hours,’” Geist recalls.

MSNBC eventually offered Geist a spot on the talk show that replaced Imus’: Morning Joe, which he co-hosts with Joe Scarborough and Mika Brzezinski every weekday. Geist also hosts the aforementioned half-hour news show Way Too Early, as well as ZeitGeist, a satirical video blog on msnbc.com. He frequently contributes to other NBC News programs, including the Today show.

“I feel bad for the Rutgers players, and for Don, too,” he says, “but that one comment opened up a whole world for me and changed my life for sure.”