Following his cameo with Will Ferrell in the new movie “Land of the Lost,” NBC’s Matt Lauer had better get used to being part of a new catchphrase.
“For the past 10 years I have walked down the street to a chorus of ‘Where in the world is Matt Lauer?’” he said, “and I’m thoroughly convinced that starting June 5 that will change to ‘Matt Lauer can suck it.’”
Lauer’s role in the movie isn’t a stretch. He plays Matt Lauer, “Today” show host, interviewing Ferrell’s character, scientist Rick Marshall, who wrote a book about his theories on time travel.
It doesn’t go well. Marshall rips off his microphone and stomps off the set when Lauer asks for a response to physicist Stephen Hawking’s characterization of the theories as “nonsense.”
Lauer quickly moves on, turning to the camera and saying, “when we come back, trampolines — summer fun or silent killer?” Marshall storms back to attack him, and Lauer grabs a fire extinguisher to subdue him.
Marshall shouts the catchphrase, “Matt Lauer can suck it,” later in the movie when his theories have proven true.
Lauer was approached about the role about a year ago by his executive producer, Jim Bell, and “I just thought it sounded like a hoot,” he said.
It was filmed on the “Today” show set in New York, with much of the backstage staff he’s familiar with. Lauer said he generally followed the script, with a few tweaks to better reflect his voice.
“These people are really talented, these comic actors,” he said. “Their timing is just impeccable and I viewed my job as to just not screw up his timing.”
Purists might wonder whether a job as a movie actor is something a prominent journalist should avoid, something Lauer said never worried him. He doesn’t mind laughing at himself and having others laugh at him.
There’s hardly a clear dividing line: In the 1970s, Walter Cronkite appeared as himself in an episode of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.” One of Lauer’s competitors, Julie Chen of “The Early Show” on CBS, is also host of the entertainment program “Big Brother.”
If someone believes a few minutes acting in a comedy means he’s no longer worthy of attention as a journalist, “I think that’s overreacting and overthinking,” he said.
In real life, Lauer’s never had any one storm off the stage on the air. One prominent female newsmaker bolted quickly without a word the instant a commercial break came on. (He won’t name her.) As for whether he’s been tempted to use a fire extinguisher on anyone, well, Lauer won’t go there.
Given that Lauer’s scenes are featured prominently in trailers for the movie that have been running for the past few months, it’s evident that producers enjoyed his work. TheAssociated Press movie critic Christy Lemire praised Lauer’s comic timing and said his scenes were the only funny ones in the film.
Maybe that was on Ferrell’s mind when he came on the “Today” show this week and jokingly reminded Meredith Vieira that he was the real star of the film. The movie studio that made “Land of the Lost” and TV company that makes “Today” are both owned by NBC Universal, making it a festival of synergy. (NBC Universal is a unit of General Electric Co.)
Lauer’s wondering about the first time a passer-by shouts “Matt Lauer can suck it” at him and whether his three children will hear it. The oldest child, who’s 7, is still too young to see the PG-13 movie.