Al Roker and Jerry Seinfeld Attended College Together
Back in the 1970’s, destiny brought together – at SUNY Oswego – two major personalities who would make a significant splash on television, and on the NBC network, in particular.
Al Roker and Jerry Seinfeld didn’t realize it at the time when they met, but each had incredibly bright futures ahead of them.
Seinfeld was destined to create his iconic show about nothing
Seinfeld, created by Jerry Seinfeld and Larry David, was birthed in discussions between the two comedians in Korean delis, diners, and their homes.
Right out the gate from its pilot episode, the show did dreadfully, according to Kevin Reilly, a development executive at NBC during the 1980s.
“It was probably the lowest-testing pilot in the history of NBC,” Reilly told Business Insider in 2017.
Reilly said the comments from the early reviews were brutal.
” ‘These are losers,'” Reilly recalled the comments as saying. ” ‘It’s not funny.’ ‘We know who Jerry Seinfeld is. He should not do this show.’ “
But the NBC higher-ups loved the show, believed in it, and even scraped up financing to give the show a four-episode order, hoping this could give the comedy a lifeline. Warren Littlefield, former NBC entertainment president, remembered pulling for Seinfeld to succeed.
“We loved it,” Littlefield said. “We picked up all this other crap and finally we were running out of options and time and there was a late-night meeting with finance and [then-NBC scheduling executive Preston Beckman].”
While the show landed in the top 50 in its initial seasons, it regularly became a No. 1 show, the one about nothing.
Roker ended up on a show about everything
Al Roker graduated from SUNY in 1976 and eventually ended up at NBC affiliate WKYC-TV in Cleveland, which eventually led to his “stint” on Today, where the popular personality regularly greets visitors out on the Today Show plaza.
“After five successful years in Cleveland . . .,” Roker writes in his memoir, Never Goin’ Back. “I was promoted to the network’s flagship outlet, WNBC-TV in New York, as a weekend meteorologist. . . I was so excited to be in the number-one market in television.”
Roker kept climbing from success to success, going from weekend weather forecaster at the local New York station to daily broadcasts. Then, he was brought on board to “Weekend Today,” and eventually, in 1996 (around the same time Seinfeld was topping the television charts), Roker officially became part of the Today show team, letting Americans know what the weather was “in their neck of the woods.”
“I’ve been standing on the sidewalks outside of Studio 1-A ever since,” he writes. “Not every weatherman wants to go outside in the rain to shake hands with whoever shows up, but I actually look forward to it every single day. I’ve got one of the best jobs in the world and for that, I am tremendously grateful.”
Al Roker explains how he and Jerry Seinfeld met at college
While Jerry Seinfeld didn’t finish his college degree at SUNY as Roker did, the latter didn’t forget that he’d met the future comedian, as he related in his memoir.
“I never had a desire to be an on-camera television personality so much as an interest in working behind the camera,” Roker writes. I wanted to be a producer or a director. After I took my first Television Performance class, the radio and TV Department chairman, Dr. Lewis O’Donnell, told me I had the perfect face for. . .radio.”
“There was a kid from Long Island in that class. A quiet guy who wanted to do stand-up comedy. Maybe you’ve heard of him. Jerry Seinfeld? Yeah. He left after sophomore year to go to Queens College and be closer to the stand-up scene in NYC. Imagine what he could’ve achieved if he’d stayed in Oswego for the full four years.”
The two men reunited years later when Roker made a guest appearance on Seinfeld in “The Cigar Store Indian” episode.
While Roker and Seinfeld didn’t graduate together, their successes have defined the last few decades in television for generations of viewers.