What I Learned When I Almost Died
What do you learn when your brain goes pop?
Chris Licht had always been ambitious. When he was only nine years old, he tracked down an NBC correspondent while on vacation to solicit advice for a career in television. At eleven, he began filming himself as he delivered the news. And by the time he was thirty-five, he landed his dream job: a fast-paced, demanding spot at the helm of MSNBC’s Morning Joe—one of the most popular shows on cable TV. He had become a real-life Jerry Maguire: hard-charging, obsessively competitive, and willing to sacrifice anything to get it done. He felt invincible. Then one day Chris heard a pop in his head, followed by a whoosh of blood and crippling pain. Doctors at the ER said he had suffered a near-deadly brain hemorrhage. Chris’s life had almost been cut short, and he had eight long days in a hospital bed to think about it. In this talk, Chris tells the story of what happened next.
Executive Vice President of Special Programming at CBS, Chris Licht consults on various forms of content for divisions across CBS. In addition to this role, Licht serves as Executive Producer and Showrunner for The Late Show with Stephen Colbert – the most-watched show in late night television. Licht is also an Executive Producer on Stephen Colbert Presents Tooning Out the News on Paramount+. He joined The Late Show in May 2016 after five years at CBS News, most recently as Vice President of Programming for CBS News and Executive Producer of CBS’ critically acclaimed morning news program, CBS This Morning.
Under Licht’s guidance, CBS This Morning became the Network’s most successful morning newscast in more than two decades, generating CBS’ largest audience in the time period in 23 years during the fourth quarter of 2015. During Licht’s tenure as executive producer, CBS This Morning earned a prestigious Peabody Award, two News and Documentary Emmys and one Daytime Emmy. Also, the broadcast and Licht were honored with an Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia Award as part of CBS News’ division-wide coverage of the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn.
Licht joined CBS News from MSNBC with a wealth of experience in television news. He was the co-creator and original executive producer of MSNBC’s Morning Joe, and was at the helm as the show garnered critical acclaim for its interviews with newsmakers and perspective on the top news stories. In addition to covering nearly every important news event in recent history, Licht led the show’s comprehensive on-location coverage of the 2008 election. Before Morning Joe, Licht was a Senior Producer and then Executive Producer of Joe Scarborough’s Scarborough Country on MSNBC.
Licht began his career at KNBC in Los Angeles, distinguishing himself early on during the O.J. Simpson trial. Over the next seven years at KNBC, he moved up to Special Projects Producer, coordinated the station’s Olympics coverage and then produced the “Channel 4 News at 11.” In 2001, NBC moved Licht to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he played an integral role on the transition team during the network’s purchase of KNTV. Following the transition, he remained with the station as Executive Producer.
Licht’s first book, What I Learned When I Almost Died, tells the story of what happened after a near-deadly brain hemorrhage left Chris in a hospital bed over eight long days to think about how his life had almost been cut short.
Licht graduated from Syracuse University’s S.I. Newhouse School of Public Communication with a bachelor’s degree in broadcast journalism and political science. He lives in New York with his wife and their two sons. Follow him on Twitter @ChrisLicht.