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WORDS

June 27, 2013 |

That Time I Was on the Today Show

BY Jen Hatmaker

Alright. I can only let so many of you tell me You were great on the Today Show! Very poised! Like you’ve done it for years! so many times before my conscience cracks under the illusion. And for the rest of you asking What was it like? I give you the unembellished truth of my four minutes on The Today Show.

I’ve told you I don’t answer my phone almost ever because my thoughts tell me I cannot do it or I might die because of the hard things like answering questions and talking, so when an unknown NYC number popped up Sunday over lunch at Doc’s Bar and Grill, I promptly screened it. When they called back one minute later, I was all perhaps you didn’t hear my first screen. Then my booking agent texted one minute later and was like ANSWER YOUR PHONE, STUPID.

So I called back Brian the Producer who was all kinds of nice and disarming, tricking me into a light conversation to discover if I should just continue writing rather than talk about my writing on his show. It is a known fact that most writers are strange birds in person having exaggerated our charms and smarts in print, which is exactly the case for me. When people tell Brandon, “It must be so funny living with Jen…” he’s all yeah, she is a barrel of laughs sitting on the couch eating hummus and watching Chopped.

But I faked Brian out and passed the Front of the Camera Test, so then he very casually, nonchalantly says, “We’ve already researched flights, and there is only one that will get you here in time, and don’t worry, but you kind of need to pack a bag and start heading to the airport.”

After five beats of dead silence, I reached across the table and swatted a chicken strip out of Remy’s mouth and started making panicked monkey gestures to everyone to FREAKING BOX UP THIS FOOD AND RUN TO THE CAR while mm-hming to Brian and acting fake sane.

Note: I have been a Today Show patron for as long as I can remember. I’ve written about it in at least three books:

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These are my people. I’ve stuck with all the anchors, all the hijinks, all the Olympics coverage, all the everything. In fact, don’t make a big deal out of it, but this was actually my second time on the Today Show, as I made this impressive debut three years ago almost to the day:

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Me and T and Lenny: smooth operators obviously.
So we drove 100 miles an hour home, and hand to the heavens, we had 10 minutes to get packed and out the door. Do you understand how much time I needed to obsess over this little dream come true? MORE THAN TEN MINUTES. This required a haircut and manicure and some wonderful new outfit, and if this wasn’t cause for new shoes, then I don’t know what is. I had two inches of gray to color and nine pounds to lose, and there was the small matter of these five kids who live here: Sister, can you stop what you’re doing and take care of my kids for the next two days? Yes?! Good! Thank you! Uh, we’re already gone. Just drive to my house sometime today.

So because I only had ten minutes to pack, my brain simply froze and launched full mental strike. I kept looking at my clothes like what are these clothes? I can’t think of what I look like in any of these. I can’t think about what to wear on the Today Show. Sequins? Jeans? A prom dress? Nothing makes sense. I cannot make sense of these options.

Since my brain was betraying me, I had no choice but to grab dirty clothes off the floor from my last event, because my brain thought it was a decent outfit a few days ago when it was still contributing to my life. And let’s be real: I’ve already told you I wear the same clothes to all my events, and since you’ve seen the same three outfits posted a million times no matter what city I’m in, we should all probably stop pretending that isn’t a thing.

We landed in NYC at 11:30pm, and “my driver” took us to “our hotel” on “Central Park South” (these are “fancy quotes”) and if you think I was unable to play that cool, you are correct, madam. I took out my clothes to see what I brought, and the news was bad: one workable outfit and a smattering of unrelated pieces absolutely good for nothing. So I stress ate a burger from “my room service” at 12:30am because I’m careful about nutrition.

NBC sent a car for us at 6:30am and said to come with clean dry hair and no makeup because they would attempt to make me pretty. When I went to “hair and makeup” (!!!), there were a bunch of young gangster homies everywhere, and I asked my makeup wizard: “Who are these boy band youths?” Neither of us had any idea, because as I mentioned, I was there for being a lame mom, so the “cool segment” wasn’t the space I occupied. All I know is, 700 thousand screaming teen girls had mobbed the plaza, and I was terrified that they’d swarm this young man and he would lose his pants, as they were sagging into the danger zone.

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“Who is this weird mom trying to act like she isn’t taking my picture?”
Speaking of segments, I shared green room space with Scott Thorson (Liberace’s gay lover, far left), Russell Brand (who kept throwing up in the bathroom and almost missed his interview), and then in walks someone’s chubby grandpa with his scantily clad, stiletto wearing…I want to say…granddaughter? No, I was mistaken about that. She was actually an employee at the Moonlite Bunny Ranch, a legalized brothel in Nevada and he was her…I want to say…owner? My first reaction was to cover her up, because I’m pretty sure I saw her hinterlands. This was Brandon’s first reaction:
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That’s right, mister. Better put Grandpa between you and Blondie.
So with an hour of substance clearly lined up, it was time for my “teasers,” of which I had two. I could see myself on the screen behind the cameraman, and it took a Herculean effort not to look at myself, like when Remy watches herself cry.

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“Just smile and wave for five seconds.” NAILED IT.
Then into the studio where Brandon and my sister were not allowed, because it is approximately the size of my living room, so now I was without my people, sitting on “my interview couch” waiting, and all the funny, charming, adorable quips I planned promptly exited my brain, like the Hebrews fleeing Egypt. I couldn’t remember how to be funny, and my breathing got shallow, which is a particular way my body tries to murder me before something like this.

You guys, these anchors, bless them, run, race to each segment. Out to the plaza, run back into the news desk, zip over to the couch scene, dash back out to the plaza, race over to the stools, dash upstairs to the Today Show kitchen, ACT LIKE YOU ARE INTERESTED IN ALL THESE UNRELATED SEGMENTS. No wonder they are such miniature, tiny people; they burn 6000 calories an hour. (I could hoist Natalie onto my hip and carry her around all day like a toddler.)

Then, Savannah and handsome Carl (the nicest person to me of them all) popped over to my couch and the camera guy started the 5, 4, 3, 2…countdown, and I had a tiny, undetectable heart attack. The lead-in piece rolled, and Natalie did the voiceover, reading parts of my blog less like a sarcastic humorist and more like a pretty robot (“Just. Whatever. Man.”) Bless.

I don’t remember the next four minutes, but I clearly have some sort of hand gesturing disorder, which is incurable I’m sorry to say, and I’d also point out that I giggle when I’m nervous, so basically I snickered and gesticulated nonstop while saying virtually nothing. Also worth noting at the 3:18 mark: I wanted to lean on my elbow to demonstrate how casual I was, but since the Today Show is staffed by wee people with wee furniture, I miscalculated the height of the armrest, thus necessitating an “air lean.” I played it off not at all.

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CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE 4-MINUTE MAGIC. Or just to bear witness to the air lean.
So glad to report that the anchors, the producers, the crew…all lovely and wonderful. The producers and I commiserated because we are all working parents and our brethren in NYC were still in school at the time, God love ‘em. NBC said, “Stay another night in the fancy hotel! We’ll pick up the tab…” Well, OKAY THEN. The whole experience was too fun, like a fake two-day fancy life in the middle of the normal, so thank you, Today Show, for all the awesome.
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I need to tell you one last thing, and I expect you to be compassionate because I was clearly under duress with these mental anxieties, but in my haste, I forgot to pack underwear, and I told you we didn’t land in NYC until 11:30pm and they sent a car for us at 6:30am, so what I am trying to tell you is this:

I went on the Today Show in dirty clothes…commando.

Sorry Yellow Couch, but there were two layers between my bare butt and your upholstery, because I may have forgotten underwear but I sure as hell didn’t forget my Spanx.