Good Lord, Brian Williams is everywhere these days, pre-SNL — talking to the NYDN about how he won't be singing "Dick In A Box"; admitting butterflies to the AP; declaring to the Hollywood Reporter that the show must go on; telling New York's Daily Intel about his Ambien habit; and giving a carefully-calibrated sneak peek into the show via an official NBC story and video (way more revealing than the paltry little teaser at the NBC News site, by the way. BriWi plays a fireman! And does accents!). Today, he gets twin features in the NYT and WaPo about this historic moment in network news and late-night variety shows. SNL — and the NBC Nightly News — will never be the same again.
WHOA! Hold up there! That is exactly the narrative that BriWi is fighting against. All those dark naysayers wringing their hands about what this might mean for the future of journalism (yawn); the gravitas-mongerers fretting that it's not dignified for the dude to god forbid crack a smile — people who can tell the difference between what airs at 6:30 and what airs at 11:30 may think that's ridiculous (hi!) but let's face it, those have been the rumblings since the surprise hosting gig was announced (see Howie Kurtz's subhed today: "Brian Williams Puts His Gravitas on the Line to Host Tonight's 'Saturday Night Live'"). Perhaps that's why Williams — in what has to be the busiest week of his life in between anchoring the news, prepping for and moderating the Dem debate in Philadelphia, and hosting SNL for the very first time — has made time for what seems like a zillion and a half interviews: So he can get lines out there like, "People are certainly smart enough to understand what I do for a living, and what SNL is...there's a very bright line between them" and "No one should worry my stewardship of journalism at NBC is any different" and "No one will declare that the death of journalism will date to this night in 2007."
But! Why should Williams cross his fingers and hope his message takes with reporters when he can get it out there himself? He's a blogger, dammit, no man speaks for him! So he did precisely that this week with The Daily Nightly, with three posts this week setting out his SNL Mission Statement, replete with assurances of gravitas and examples of other "serious" people flexing their funnymuscles, of which he is merely the latest in a long line. Observe:
- From Wednesday, where he lumps himself in with non-actor non-sports figure "none of the above" hosts like John McCain, Al Gore, Rudy Giuliani, Steve Forbes, Ed Koch, Ralph Nader, Howard Cosell and Ron Nessen, press secretary to the not-eaten-by-wolves Gerald Ford. He also reminds readers that former "Coast To Coast" host and presidential son Ron Reagan did the Risky Business "Old Time Rock n' Roll" thing in his "underpants" (aw! See? He may be hosting SNL, but he's still square! I see London, I see France!). Memes put forth here: Saturday is his "night off"; the nightly news is "Job One."
- Thursday: Williams gives readers an account of his schedule, including pulling an all-nighter like a college kid with the writers following the Philly debate (and eating like a college kid too), appearing on Conan, doing a photo shoot, promo shoot, "some pre-taping" (ooh, digital short?) and rehearsals...plus, the news: "I am sandwiching all this in (pardon the snack reference) between what remains my top priority: putting the Nightly broadcast together." Job One, people!
- Friday: Back to gravitas! Williams reminds readers that it's been a busy week for Job One ("There was Tuesday's debate in Philadelphia, and - as always - there are the daily demands of my number one priority, which is Nightly News") — but lest anyone doubt, a reminder that not only does HE have gravitas, he's in the same boat with others with EQUAL gravitas — or more, seen through the long lens of history: Chet Huntley and David Brinkley of the Huntley-Brinkley Report, who did a bit for Jack Benny and "emerged unscathed." Why? Because there is a difference between the day job and the fun stuff, people! And Wiliams, need he remind you, is all about Job One.
Well, it's within his right to doth protest too much, given the avalanche of ink that has resulted from this event. (And yes, Katie Couric WOULD be flayed for it if she were to host. But that's another post.) But Wiliams could have saved himself a lot of blogging if he'd just thought to invoke the most towering and inviolate broadcast news icon of them all: Walter Cronkite. That would be Walter Cronkite, former "CBS Evening News" anchor...and Walter Cronkite, guest-star on "The Mary Tyler Moore Show." If a legend like that can withstand a gravitas-stretching move like that, then surely Williams can sing "Dick In A Box' with impunity. After all, we're having this conversation AFTER he burped the "Battle Hymn of the Republic" at a black-tie dinner. AFTER. So I think the news business is safe.
For those of you who can't wait, here's a teaser vid of Williams rehearsing with Seth Meyers and Amy Poehler for last year's cameo:
(Courtesy of the Sundance Channel's "Iconoclasts" series.)