In this publicity image released by NBC, Nicole "Snooki" Polizzi, left, sits with Matt Lauer, co-host of the "Today," show, in the NBC studio in New York, Tuesday, Jan. 11, 2011.
Last July, Nicole “Snooki” Polizzi told The New York Times that she’d only read two books in her life.
Now she’s written one.
The pint-size pop culture princess-turned-author went toe-to-toe with Matt Lauer on TODAY Tuesday, giving the sometimes bemused anchor lessons in Jersey Shore slang, denying she has a drinking problem, and firing back at critics who say her brain is as diminutive as her 4-foot-9 body.
“A Shore Thing” follows the boozy adventures of one Gia Spumanti (a thinly disguised version of the author, she acknowledged) on the famed resort coast of New Jersey. Lauer synopsized the book as the protagonist and her pals go “down to the Jersey Shore, get drunk and live happily ever after.”
“It’s pretty much like the show, but you’re reading it,” Snooki said.
“People probably expected my first book to be like a biography or guidelines to be a guidette (i.e., a young female Jersey Shore denizen) or something like that,” she added. “I wanted to surprise everybody with a novel.”
What may not be as surprising is the continuing success of the reality series: Thursday’s third-season debut of the show that made household names out of Snooki and castmates Mike “The Situation” Sorrentino and Jenni “J-Woww” Farley was the highest-rated episode of any series in MTV’s history. But the other side of popularity is notoriety: One sunny day last July, police found Snooki stumbling down a Jersey Shore beach in an inebriated state and arrested her for disorderly conduct — an embarrassing moment caught on film that will air later this season on the reality series.
Snooki told Lauer she didn’t regret the incident, calling it “a lesson learned.
“I really need to watch my drinking when it comes to partying during the day in the summer,” she added. “I’m definitely not going to do that anymore.”
“Do you have a drinking issue?” Lauer pressed.
“No. I’m 23 years old!” Snooki exclaimed.
“Well, a lot of 23-year-olds have drinking issues,” Lauer pointed out.
“Well, not me,” Snooki rejoined. “I’m good. I only party during the summer like that; it’s not like this all year round.”
Still, in sentencing Snooki last September, Judge Damian Murray accused her of being a “Lindsay Lohan wannabe” and asked her if she were trading her “dignity for a paycheck.”
Snooki still bristles at the remark. “I think he doesn’t know what he’s talking about,” she told Lauer. “People can judge me, they can have their opinions about me good or bad, but not everyone is going to like me.”
Or necessarily understand her. Thumbing through “A Shore Thing,” Lauer admitted he was foggy on some of the colorful expressions that pepper the novel. “What’s a badonk?” he asked.
“It’s your butt,” Snooki explained.
The TODAY anchor hesitated before even asking Snooki to define “weenis.” “It’s not what you think it is,” Snooki said. “It’s the part of your elbow which is, like, wrinkly.”
“It has a name?” Lauer said in surprise.
But despite their language barrier, when Snooki returned in TODAY’s fourth hour, co-anchor Hoda Kotb said she sensed “a little connect” between Snooki and Lauer during their interview.
“Oh yeah, he’s actually really good-looking,” Snooki agreed. “He’s hot in person.”
The reality star likes her own looks, too, as she mentioned when the topic of her arrest last summer — which was followed by four hours in jail — came up again. “Jail kinda sucked a little bit,” she confided. “I’m thinking, ‘I’m tiny, I shouldn’t be there. I’m too pretty for that.’ ”
But she cautioned that her antics and those of her castmates may not be appropriate for younger viewers. “We’re not trying to be role models,” she said. “I get mad when people under 18 watch our show.”
She also admitted that her father isn’t the reality series’ biggest fan: “He doesn’t like to see his little baby girl hook up with guys on TV.” As for her mother, “she has some talks with me,” Snooki said.
“Can I give you a little motherly advice?” fourth hour co-anchor Kathie Lee Gifford asked her. “Value yourself a little bit more; don’t give yourself away to just any jerk, OK?”
Snooki nodded. “Oh, gotcha,” she replied.