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Getting to know Willie

'Morning Joe' host Willie Geist answers viewer questions on Blago, Palin, and how he likes his job in an Web chat.

[Comment From Tom]  Willie, a general question: How did you, Mika and Joe get together as a broadcast team? You guys have great chemistry. Was the trio pitched to the network, or did the network bring you together? Plus, did you know each other before?
Willie Geist: Thanks for the question, Tom. The truth is we were kind of thrown together by accident after Imus left MSNBC. I had done some segments for “Scarborough Country”, so I knew Joe a little bit. Mika I had never met until we sat down on the set the first day about a year and a half ago. As they rotated different combinations of people through to try that early AM slot, we were the three left standing, I guess.

[Comment From John Vizikas] Man, I can’t wait for Willie! He will solve the economic crisis! Willie Geist: Yes, John, I have a simple plan to solve the economic crisis. Give every American a $100 credit to the dog track of their choice. I have found the puppies to be a reliable source of income with a consistent rate of return.

[Comment From Kevin] Willie..are you related to Bill Geist of CBS News?
Willie Geist: Kevin: my Bill Geist is, in fact, my father. I learned that just last week when I read my Wikipedia page.

[Comment From Peter Ingemi] Hi Willie: One of the things I notice about the show is that you guys seem to have a lot of fun and not take each other too seriously but aren’t afraid to say what you think. Would you say that is the secret of the show’s success?
Willie Geist: Peter, thanks for the question. You’re right that we don’t take ourselves very seriously. We take the news and our guests very seriously, but you won’t ever catch us saying we’re “Keeping Them Honest” or that we’re “On Your Side”. Better to just keep people honest and be on your side without announcing that you’re keeping them honest and being on your side, you know?

[Comment From Jay] Willie, can you get control of Joe’s microphone switch and cut him off when he gets bullying? :)
Willie Geist: Jay, we can’t control Joe’s bullying. He’s getting payback for having been locked inside his locker in middle school and getting swirlies in the boys’ room for years on end. This is his time.

[Comment From Greg] How did you come up with “News you can’t use” segment. I love that part of MJ.
Willie Geist: Hey Greg. News You Can’t Use is actually a version of the segment I used to do on Tucker Carlson’s show. I was one of the producers of Tucker’s show and we decided we needed a repository for the absurd stories that have no relevance, but that people are talking about. We figure we talk about real news for 2 hours and 55 minutes, so we can give a 5-minute break of utter stupidity.

[Comment From Jay] Do you ever think IMUS will return to network tv?
Willie Geist: I don’t know if Imus will return. I’ve never met him, but for some reason he has been very nice to me on the radio. You know he regrets those 5 seconds that cost him his show. I hope he comes back. He certainly doesn’t need my help doing it.

[Comment From Aaron Martinson] What is your favorite story from N.Y.C.U.?
Willie Geist: Aaron, that’s like asking me to choose my favorite child. Wait, I only have one child, so that’s not a good comparison, but you get the idea. I really liked it a couple of months ago when a drag queen robbed a Burger King. You don’t really have to say much when your headline is “Drag Queen Robs Burger King”. Sometimes comedy writes itself.

[Comment From Nancy] Willie, can we request Chris’s baby to do the next chat?
Willie Geist: This actually is Chris’s baby. Who did you think this was?

[Comment From Donna] Willie, you are brillliant and LOVE your work...always appreciate a little levity in the midst of “the sky is falling and the bottom’s dropping out! Do you ever wish to do “serious news?
Willie Geist: Sorry, Donna, I skipped over yours. The nice thing about Morning Joe is that I do get to do serious news sometimes. I get in on the interviews, I get to have conversations with the smartest people in the country, and then I can do jokes about Blago later. On Morning Joe, you sort of have to be able to do it all.

[Comment From Guest] MSNBC is considered a very liberal network. Yet your show is very appealing to conservatives like me. How do you manage it?
Willie Geist: Good question about MSNBC. I can tell you with a straight face that we really have no agenda on Morning Joe. Joe is as tough on Republicans as he is on Democrats. I have no dog in the fight - I just like calling people out when the act like fools. And, yes, Mika does own a Barack Obama cheerleader outfit, but she can be unbiased sometimes. Being predictable doesn’t strike me as very interesting.

[Comment From John Vizikas] Oh, so “lol” gets posted here but my brilliant comment won’t? Who’s censoring this chat? The Chinese government?

[Comment From Robert Collar] I’m sure he’s getting like 30 comments a second...
Willie Geist: John, we respect your right to ask tough questions. Now please collect your things and say goodbye to your family. Two agents will be arriving at your door momentarily. You’re going on a little field trip.

[Comment From Nancy] Willie, can we cap your salary too?
Willie Geist: Nancy, capping 8 bucks an hour seems a little unfair. I have mouths to feed.

[Comment From JLD] Willie - have you attempted to secure an interview with Blago? or is he avoiding you?
Willie Geist: JLD, I am SO mad that I missed Blago when he was in town on Tuesday. Seriously. This might be a little too revealing of my obsession, but a friend sent me a tip that Blago was out jogging in snowy Central Park that day. If I told you I went looking for him, would you still respect me in the morning?

[Comment From Steve] I’m wondering...what time you guys get up? And when do you arrive for a 6:00 start?
Willie Geist: Steve, here’s how the morning goes. My cell phone alarm goes off at 4am, I throw my phone against the wall, then I use my wife’s phone to call my agent to get me off the show so I never have to wake up again, then I call my boss and apologize, then I arrive around 5am.

[Comment From Jason Ellinger] Are you really 101 like your MySpace says.
Willie Geist: Jason, I was put on MySpace against my will. I am not, in fact, 101 years old. I was born the year “Wheel of Fortune” premiered on NBC. Do the research. And is it me or does Vanna look as good today as the day she took the jump. She also has not spoken a word on the show in a quarter century of appearing.

[Comment From Robert Collar] Seriously, has Blago been approached (and do the producers want him) to guest at M.J.?
Willie Geist: Robert, we kind of missed the boat on Blago. I really would love to talk to him. Such an interesting study in human behavior. Maybe we’ll wait a few weeks and resurrect the Blago story.

[Comment From Aaron Martinson] If you brought something other than Starbucks to the set would you be fired?
Willie Geist: Aaron, the Starbucks just appears magically every morning. We don’t have a sponsorship or anything. Believe it or not, but I don’t drink coffee. Had it only a couple times in my life. I like to knock down a 5am Dr. Pepper and see where the day takes me.

[Comment From Karen C] Does Mika really drink Vodka in the morning?
Willie Geist: Karen: you saw Mika interviewing a United States senator while holding an infant. What do you think?

[Comment From Chuck] I drink DP in the morning too. Are you from down South?
Willie Geist: Chuck, I’m not from the South, but I went to school in Nashville and then lived in Atlanta for 7 years after that. I also like the Dr. Pepper knockoff Mr. Pibb.

Jamey, I just spent New Year’s in Nashville. Vanderbilt won a bowl game. It was like an eclipse of the sun.

[Comment From Anthony] We always hear what you learn every morning on the show. What have you learned from the chat?
Willie Geist: Great question, Anthony. I’ve learned that you guys have great questions. We should all go out for some whiskey sometime.

[Comment From JLD] So, does Joe really order that fru-fru whipped up coffee drink every morning, or does that just appear too? I would have thought a rough and tumble guy from the panhandle would be drinking black coffee.
Willie Geist: JLD, that is Joe’s real drink. It’s the equivalent of melting down a 7-layer chocolate cake and pouring it into a large cup. Just vile.

[Comment From Katherine] I’ve learned that girls named Katherine don’t get noticed.

[Comment From Katherine] What’s the deal with the Ambien remarks? Do Joe and Mika take it? I take it - and I don’t have to be in bed by 7:30 PM!
Willie Geist: I see you, Katherine. I see you. I believe Mika enjoys a hit of Ambien from time to time. Our set is like a Mexican pharmacy: whatever you want, no oversight.

[Comment From Thomas] Willie is the world going to end in 2012?
Willie Geist: Thomas: Yes. Just after President Palin is elected.

[Comment From Jeff] Willie, whats with Mike (Barnicle) and the shirt-tails? Really!
Willie Geist: Jeff: Mike Barnicle is a mess. His problems are so much more profound than an untucked shirt. We’re trying to tackle the big stuff without henpecking him about the small stuff.

[Comment From Donna] Willie who have you met via your career that you are most honored to have met?
Willie Geist: Donna: I meet people every day on the show who I have no business being in the same room with. Jack Welch is a perfect example. Hillary Clinton. Chevy Chase was an exciting one for me because I can recite his movies verbatim.

[Comment From Anthony] Blago or Palin: Who would you rather have a shot at interviewing if you could choose one?
Willie Geist: Anthony, I’d say Sarah Palin because, like it or not, she’s someone who still has to be taken seriously politically. I’d be happy just hanging out in Reno with Blago. No interview necessary.

[Comment From Donna] Willie, while on the set, you guys are so warm and open. Watching you daily tends to make us all feel as if we know you ever fear that we are of bunch of psycho’s with NO lives? Do we SCARE you? LMAO! What is the weirdest fan encounter you have ever had?
Willie Geist: Not at all, Donna. We try to create the feeling that you are part of the conversation. That you’re just dropping in on breakfast with us. Some days you laugh with us, some days you yell at us. Just like real life. As for weird encounters, I had a person jog with me in New York for an extended period of time. I wasn’t fast enough to outrun him...

[Comment From Jill B] Willie, there was a news story this morning that suggested Nancy Pelosi was President Obama’s biggest problem and not the economy. How would you weigh in on that and why?
Willie Geist: Good question, Jill. The argument is that the stimulus bill has been hijacked by liberal Democrats who are gloating in their electoral victories. I think President Obama knows he has to wrestle the bill away from Rep. Pelosi somewhat to make it more palatable for the Senate. Not the time for endzone dancing.

[Comment From Jon in NYC] When you grow up will you change your name to Will Geist, just like Ricky Schroeder became Rick?
Willie Geist: Jon, that’s a pretty good idea. I went with Will for the first two months of college (I have the term papers to prove it) and it just doesn’t feel right. “Willie” may not be a fitting name for a grown man, but I’m sticking with it.

[Comment From Neko] Willie: How close are you to the Today Show? By that, I mean it seems guest that on the 7:00 houir of Today get to Morning Joe afterwards.
Willie Geist: Neko, the Today show is one of our biggest assets. We’ve gotten to the point now where we’re able to book the big-name guests, but when Today has someone we’re also interested in talking to, they never hesitate to share the wealth. We benefit from the power of their show.

[Comment From Anthony] Buchanan or Barnicle: Who would you rather be stuck on a deserted island with?
Willie Geist: Anthony, that’s just unfair. You’ve given me a veritable Sophie’s choice. I guess I’d say Barnicle because I wouldn’t feel guilty when the time came to feed him to the natives. Pat Buchanan is a national treasure who deserves a better fate than that.

[Comment From Thomas] Willie or Tucker: Who would win in a game of Chess?
Willie Geist: Thomas, I think Tucker would win. I’m better at games that don’t involve strategy or thought. I’d wipe the floor with Tucker in a game of Chutes and Ladders. I’m also pretty good at Card Sharks where you guess whether the next card will be higher or lower based on absolutely nothing.

[Comment From Katherine] Willie, have you given any thought to doing what Tucker did and going on Dancing with the Stars?
Willie Geist: Katherine, Dancing With The Stars has not called. I can assure you of one thing though: I would be MUCH better than Tucker. That’s a pretty low standard, I know.

[Comment From jamey] How much research do you do for the show? i’m assuming you have a staff of them...basically, are topics thrown to you or do you get to bring cards to the table yourself?
Willie Geist: Good question, Jamey. I do most of my research the night before. Reading everything I can get my hands on. When we come in, our GREAT staff (which gets here at midnight in some cases) has condensed everything into a group of stories that will drive our show. They edit the soundbites and video, they make graphics, and do the hard work that starts the conversation.

[Comment From Trish from RI] Willie Buy Mike B some brown or black socks PLEASE
Willie Geist: Trish, it’s a lost cause. Barnicle is about 2 weeks away from being in a home.

[Comment From Katherine] Has Dennis Miller ever graced the MJ show?
Willie Geist: We haven’t had Dennis Miller on the show, but I’d love to talk to him. I think he has a contract with Fox News. He’s on O’Reilly all the time. Funny guy.

[Comment From Thomas] Willie, How old is Mika? If this is a life or death question feel free not to answer.
Willie Geist: Mika is an ageless wonder, Mika. Why put numbers and labels on her?

[Comment From Jason Ellinger] Willie, go crash Joe and Mika's radio show.
Willie Geist: I hosted the radio show with Mika last week when Joe was out. Lots of fun. Just what the world needs: 2 more hours of us running our mouths.

[Comment From Chantal] Do you see my questions? Why not ship overseas, all the high paying jobs? if shipping middle class job overseas is good for capitalism, then it’s time to do the same for high paying jobs.
Willie Geist: Hey Chantal. Sorry, I can’t see the questions. I just work here. I detect a hint of sarcasm in your question. I would not be against putting some of these CEOs on a slow boat to China.

Chat moderator: Alright everyone, thanks for the comments, but the curtain needs to fall on this chat. Willie needs to run, so that’s it for today. Keep checking for news of more Web chats!
Willie Geist: Thanks, guys!