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Who is Willie Geist?

A brief biography of the ‘Today Show’ co-host


Who is Willie Geist?
Robin Marchant / Getty Images

When the third hour of The Today Show rolls around, it's time to hang out with Willie Geist. The jovial young host slides in to Matt Lauer's spot after Lauer has completed his work for the morning and then hands the show off to Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb for Today's final hour.

Geist was born William Russell Geist to parents Bill and Jody Geist. Geist's father is well known in the world of broadcast journalism and plies his humorous trade over on CBS during CBS Sunday Morning. His mother is a well-respected social worker.

Geist was born in Evanston, Ill. The family would later move to Ridgewood, New Jersey, where Geist would attended and graduate from Ridgewood High School. After graduation, Geist entered Vanderbilt University, where he studied journalism and communications. He was the editor of the school's official newspaper, The Vanderbilt Hustler.

The Geist family is filled with award-winning creative folk. Geist's younger sister, Libby Wildes, is producer of a slew of well-respected documentaries, including Crazy Love, Black Magic and Ring of Fire. Wildes won a Peabody Award for her documentary work. She's married to Kevin Wildes of ESPN fame.

Herbie Lewis is Geist's great-grandfather. Hockey fans know Geist as a former captain of the Detroit Red Wings. Lewis led to the team to two Stanley Cups and landed himself in the Hockey Hall of Fame.

Building a successful career
After graduating from Vanderbilt, Geist launched his career by taking a job as editor and producer for CNN Sports Illustrated. He later became a field producer for CNN Sports, covering the Super Bowl, the Final Four and The Master - football, college basketball and golf's major events.

Then, in 2005, he left CNN for MSNBC - after a short stint with Fox Sports Net - where he became senior producer of The Situation with Tucker Carlson. His success at MSNBC led him to a successful stint as a morning co-host during MSNBC's 6 to 9 a.m. time slot, after the cable network let famed deejay Don Imus go.

He was eventually named permanent co-host of that time slot, which became the popular Morning Joe show, hosted by Joe Scarborough. Geist's wit won over audiences and producers alike, which led to MSNBC's offer to let Geist host the half-hour leading up to Morning Joe on his own.

During his time on that show - Way Too Early with Willie Geist - Geist started filling in for Lauer on Today. He proved likeable on the popular morning program, as well, so NBC opted to keep him there. Way Too Early was cancelled and Geist became the permanent host of Today's third hour.

Fast Facts

  • Geist married his high-school sweetheart, Christina Sharkey, in 2003.
  • He has two children, a boy and a girl.
  • Was called "a contempo Dick Cavett by The Village Voice
  • Was compared to Jon Stewart and Rachel Maddow by The Daily Beast.

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