'SNL'-Themed Books Compete for 'Today'

By Lloyd Grove,
New York Daily News - 2/10/04

Don't invite Washington Post television critic  Tom Shales and "Today" star Matt Lauer to the same dinner party.

Shales is deeply annoyed that the NBC morning show has booked comic actor Jay Mohr in a couple of months to flog his upcoming memoir, "Gasping for Airtime: Two Years in the Trenches at 'Saturday Night Live.'"

Why?

Because in 2002, when Shales and co-author James Miller were promoting their best-selling "uncensored" oral history of "SNL," "Live From New York," the top-rated "Today" declined to have them on.

Shales blames Lauer.

"The 'Today' show gave us the run-around for weeks," he told me. "They said maybe we could come on if we brought a star from 'Saturday Night Live' with us. And I said to Jim, 'Since when does a guest have to produce his own segment?' Finally, I got a call from somebody high up on the 'Today' show [Katie Couric? Shales wouldn't comment] saying that Matt didn't want me on because I have written mean things about him."

The portly Shales has indeed been nasty over the years to the svelte Lauer.

"Glorified model," the critic once sniffed.

"A male model with a gift for the glib," he jabbed another time.

Years ago, on "Larry King Live," Lauer admitted that Shales' gibes were wounding: "You know what? No, no, it doesn't roll off me completely. ... Do you look and say it doesn't matter? No. I don't want people to read that."

I like and admire both men, and it's too bad they can't get along. But yesterday Shales was unapologetic. "Where in the world is Matt Lauer? I don't know, but I can tell you where he should be."

NBC News spokeswoman  Allison Gollust seemed baffled that Shales was still nursing his grudge.

"Given 'Today's' longstanding record as the nation's No. 1 morning program, there are countless authors hoping to get on," she told me. "While we cannot accommodate all of them, we are looking forward to welcoming Jay Mohr to hear about his book."