Kathie Lee Gifford and Hoda Kotb have cultivated a breezy, anything-goes atmosphere for their fourth hour of NBC's "Today" show, but that seeming lack of preparation worked against Gifford on Wednesday during an otherwise routine interview with Martin Short, who was there promoting his new animated film "Madagascar 3."
Gifford asked about Short's children and then began talking about Short's wife, Nancie.
"And he and Nancie have one of the greatest marriages of anybody in show business. How many years now for you guys?" Gifford asked.
One problem: Short's wife died in 2010 after a long battle with ovarian cancer.
After a brief stumble, Short answered Gifford's question straight, giving no hint of her error. "Um ... married 36 years," he responded.
Still clueless, Gifford continued her questioning. "But you're still in love?"
"Madly in love," Short responded.
"Why?" Gifford wanted to know.
"I'm cute," Short said.
And then the conversation moved on. Unless viewers had knowledge of Nancie's death (which was widely reported by the media at the time), they would have been oblivious to the conversation's awkwardness.
After a return from a commercial break, Gifford apologized on air and explained that Short informed her after the segment of his wife's passing.
"I feel so badly," Gifford said.
-- Patrick Kevin Day
Photo: Martin Short. Credit: today.msnbc.msn.com.