NPR : Tell Me More

Al Roker On Being ' The Jolly Fat Person'

Play associated audio

Al Roker, the veteran weatherman for NBC's Today show, endured years of indignities as an obese teenager and throughout his television career. Then he had bariatric surgery and lost more than 100 pounds. But deciding to have the procedure, which is potentially life-threatening, wasn't easy – and neither was keeping the weight off afterwards.

Roker chronicles the that experience in a new book, Never Goin' Back: Winning the Weight-Loss Battle for Good. He tells NPR's Michel Martin that he had an especially difficult time in high school when Bill Cosby developed the Fat Albert character for television. "I'm black, I'm fat, my name is Albert. It was the embodiment of who I had become." It contributed to a lot of teasing from his classmates. Roker says he dealt with it by using humor and acting as the "jolly fat person" to deflect the teasing.

Despite his obesity, Roker went on to a pursue a television career. During one of his first jobs in Washington, D.C., he received a call from the man who would become his mentor. The man had a thick Southern accent. He said to Roker, "This is Willard Scott, and I am outside your studio. I'd like to take you to dinner." Roker writes in the book that Scott gave him advice about navigating a media career as a larger man. "So what if they think you're funny because you're fat — you're the one laughing, all the way to the bank!"

Eventually, the weight became no laughing matter. Roker says it was like a third person in his marriage. His slim wife, Deborah Roberts of ABC News, urged him to lose weight. But it wasn't until Roker's father asked him to make a promise on his death bed that he considered drastic measures. Roker promised that he would lose weight – and he did.

After undergoing bariatric surgery in 2001 and sticking to a fairly rigid diet, Roker currently weighs around 200 pounds – a far cry from when he topped the scales at 340. He still enjoys some of his favorite high-fat foods, but now he only needs a few bites. Roker also does things he couldn't when he was obese – from zip lining to simply bending over to tie his own shoes.

Copyright 2013 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

NPR

Patricia Clarkson On 'Learning To Drive,' Fighting For Starring Roles

NPR's Rachel Martin talks to actress Patricia Clarkson about her role as a jilted wife without a driver's license in Learning to Drive. Ben Kingsley plays her instructor, who is a Sikh man.
NPR

Open Your Eyes To The Infinite Possibility Of The Tomato

How do you transform 100 pounds of 60 varieties of tomatoes into a seven-course meal? It may sound like a math problem, but it's more of a creative journey into the infinite possibility of the tomato.
NPR

British Prime Minister Announces U.K. Will Take In More Migrants

NPR's Robert Siegel speaks with Guardian political editor Patrick Wintour about British Prime Minister David Cameron's announcement to allow more Syrian refugees into the UK.
NPR

Drone Crash At U.S. Open; New York City Teacher Arrested

The black, shoebox-sized drone flew over the court at Louis Armstrong Stadium during a second-round match and then crashed into empty seats and broke apart.

Leave a Comment

Help keep the conversation civil. Please refer to our Terms of Use and Code of Conduct before posting your comments.