Lauer was roast of the hour
The 'Today' host endured the hot seat at the Friars Club.
NEW YORK - As host of
, Matt Lauer is widely acknowledged as one of the most decent and dignified men on television.
But you could kiss all that goodbye yesterday, when Lauer was the target of a celebrity roast. A large, eclectic crowd gathered in a Midtown Manhattan hotel for the annual charity event hosted by the Friars Club.
The format has always been simple: Place honoree on spit and set the controls on "char."
You expect obscene insults from some of the attendees, regulars on the roast circuit like Bob Saget, Gilbert Gottfried, Pat Cooper, Jeffrey Ross and Richard Belzer ("Matt Lauer: born to a Jewish father and an inflatable mother").
The surprise was how down-and-dirty some of the more reputable speakers were. Martha Stewart, Katie Couric (who delivered a soapy Top Ten List of little-known facts about Matt Lauer) and an obscenity-spewing Meredith Vieira were all raunchy.
Also taking shots were NBC boss Jeff Zucker (who wondered, "What is it like waking up in the morning knowing that Lester Holt is waiting for you to die?") and news anchor Brian Williams ( who observed that Lauer "wears outfits that are disturbingly tapered").
The real shock came at the top, when Tom Cruise walked on stage unannounced. You may recall that Cruise and Lauer had a heated confrontation on Today a few years ago about antidepressants. Cruise mocked Lauer's job as consisting of "sitting on a couch interviewing the car from Knight Rider."
As Cruise walked away from the microphone, Lauer shouted after him, "Tom, can you stay? I'll get you a booster seat."
The crowded dais facing the ballroom looked like an endless version of the Last Supper, that is if Apprentice terror Omarosa Manigault-Stallworth had been an apostle. Among the other big-table sitters were Luke Russert, Bob Costas, Aretha Franklin, Dominic Chianese, Neil Simon, Donald Trump, Tiki Barber and Clay Aiken.
But Lauer wasn't the only dartboard. Aiken was the butt of so many jokes you'd think he was being roasted. ("What does Clay Aiken have in common with my high-school letter jacket? They both have been in the closet for 27 years.") Al Roker, who hosted the event, also came in for an inordinate amount of abuse. And Gottfried went after Ann Curry unmercifully.
Lauer took all the slings and arrows good-naturedly, but as he accepted the Friars award after the long bombardment, he fired back at his tormentors. Addressing Vieira, he said, "In two years you've gotten me to do things I never thought I'd do - like miss Katie, actually."
Before the festivities, the press was herded into a holding pen - um, "red carpet area." As the celebrities were paraded past, the photographers had the most rabid reactions, oddly enough, for Howard Stern, Jim Cramer and Abe Vigoda.
Later in the ballroom, lunch was served. The main course was Lauer tartare.