Katie Couric did the “Today” show Wednesday: The potential Trifecta of Awkwardness. Would Couric and “Today’s” Matt Lauer and Meredith Vieira -- all of whom are reported to have one foot out the door on their job -- be seen together in the same shot, which would be the highest concentration of on-their-way-out ever seen simultaneously on one morning infotainment show?
Vieira, sadly, was nowhere to be found as Couric plugged her new book of essays, reports The Post’s Emily Yahr. That left Couric and her former “Today” co-anchor, Lauer, to cozily sit and chat:
“As the speculation continues, the longer it goes, the more headlines are in the paper, the more time being taken away and space being taken away from important things -- like Charlie Sheen,” Lauer cracked.
“That’s true,” Couric acknowledged. “I need to give the headlines back to Charlie. I feel really bad about that.”
The pair had started the interview as though she was there to promote her book of essays from celebrities, ““The Best Advice I Ever Got: Lessons From Extraordinary Lives.” But the seasoned pro that he is, Lauer quickly transitioned to the Thing No One Will Stop Talking About.
“There is an entire chapter in the book devoted to taking risks, seeking opportunities,” Lauer said, by way of making an ultra-smooth segue. “Have you heard any good rumors lately?”
“No, have you?” Couric joked, probably unsure if he was referring to her leaving the “CBS Evening News,” her starting a syndicated talk show, or her starting a syndicated talk show with Lauer himself.
“What are you going to do?” Lauer asked, point blank.
“I’m not sure,” Couric responded. “I’m really excited about the future. I love doing my job at the ‘CBS Evening News.’”
We’d heard it all before yesterday when she visited CBS’s “The Early Show,” and ABC’s “The View.”
Referencing that visit to “The View” yesterday, Couric: “Barbara Walters...was like, ‘Ech! Ech! Ech! Ech!” Couric said, making a noise like an annoying car alarm, which apparently is how she hears Walters’s voice in her head. “And I just don’t know, honestly.”
“I know you very well and I know the business pretty well,” Lauer pressed on. Is it fair of me to assume you have made a decision -- because you’ve only got a number of weeks left on your contract...but you’ve yet to discuss openly the decision?”
“No, I really haven’t,” Couric protested. “I’m in the middle of figuring out where would be the best place for me, what would be the best job for me.”
“And it still might be at CBS doing the news?” Lauer wondered.
“Yes. Yes. So, yeah -- I’m going to call you as soon as I know,” Couric pledged faithfully.
After Couric went on about the pros and cons of going into syndicated shows (cons: risks. pros: getting to “show my personality”), Lauer dug deeper.
“When you lay in bed at night, close your eyes and think of a possible syndicated show, are you thinking of something that looks like ‘Oprah,’ looks like ‘Ellen,’ looks like ‘Regis,’ looks like ‘The View’?” he asked.
“You know I’m a good dancer,” Couric quipped.
Lauer was not to be distracted. “No seriously, I’m trying to get my arms around what you’re considering,” he said, starting to sound more and more like a prospective co-host, over lunch.
“I think a smart conversation about a whole host of subjects would be really fun,” Couric finally indulged him. “I’m obviously interested in medical and health information. I’m interested in controversial topics and social issues....”
This went on, and then Lauer went back to the hot topic of all the speculation, and when she might be ready to break the big news.
“I don’t love this part of it,” Couric said.
Raise your hand if you believe that. Yeah, me neither.
“But I also don’t want to feel pressured by outside forces to make a decision quickly,” said Couric.
Hello -- Katie, your contract’s up in just a few weeks.
Lauer asked her when she would make her decision.
“I’m hoping in the next few weeks,” Couric said.
Couric continued to prattle on merrily: no regrets, loves the “Evening News,” Walter Cronkite took her out to dinner, blah blah blah, until Lauer tried to cut her off. Couric went into overdrive:
“Oh by the way -- can I just mention really quickly, I know you have to wrap. You did a fantastic essay [for the book] about going off course, and making a tough choice while you were in college, Al [Roker] talked about Willard [Scott]. And by the way, the girls are doing great! I’ve produced a -- “
“The proceeds go -- “ Lauer tried to get things back on track.
“To Scholarship America, which will help needy kids go to college,” Couric finished.
“Don’t we have more time?” Couric then pleaded, laughing.
“We actually have to go to commercial,” Lauer said sternly
Lesson learned? We really want to see them do a talk show together.