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NEW YORK, NY – AUGUST 5: Andy Cohen at the flat of his BravoTV actualization Watch What Happens Alive with Andy Cohen in New York, NY on August 5, 2019. (Photo by Chris Sorensen for the Washington Post) (Chris Sorensen/For The Washington Post)
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Andy Cohen bounced in his bench and pumped his fist. Diane von Furstenberg, one of his guests on his Bravo late-night actualization “Watch What Happens Alive with Andy Cohen,” had aloof gone there — dished about her long-ago “brief adulation affair” with Richard Gere, not aloof on alive TV but in the best deliciously, bluntly barnyard terms.
“Iconic! Iconic!” Cohen cheered, aptitude over to accord the actualization artisan a high-five as his flat admirers screamed.
Cohen, a reality-TV innovator abaft the camera continued afore he became a talk-show host, has an astonishing alarm for dank capacity of acclaimed and semifamous people’s lives. That may be why his actualization has become a nightly absonant confessional for bona fide celebrities — alike if they don’t consistently plan on it.
The Gere adventure wasn’t new account — von Furstenberg appear it in her 2014 account — but it was new enough, or at atomic fun enough, to ablaze up Cohen’s admirers that March night, as able-bodied as Page Six, Bodies and dozens of added gossip-accumulating sites the abutting day. Yet it wasn’t alike the bigger beat from that one 30-minute show. Cohen went to the phones to booty questions from viewers. One asked his added guest, added Julianne Moore, why she abandoned the arch role in “Can You Anytime Forgive Me?” which affronted into an Oscar choice for Melissa McCarthy.
Andy Cohen with a blimp adaptation of his dog Wacha on the set of his actualization “Watch What Happens Alive with Andy Cohen.” (Chris Sorensen/for The Washington Post)
Moore, who had aloof set bottomward a bottle of white wine, winced. “I didn’t leave that movie,” she said, her articulation light. “I was fired.”
A blow rose from the baby audience. “Were you?!” Cohen exclaimed, afresh confused into anchorman mode: “Was there a reason? . . . So you started acid it? . . . Did you see the movie?” She replied quietly: Creative differences. It happened during rehearsals. No, she hadn’t yet apparent the film. “It’s still affectionate of painful.”
Cohen, 51, who acicular his account abilities at CBS Account afore deploying them at Bravo “Real Housewives” alliance shows, isn’t abashed to ask any catechism — or duke over the mic to a call-in fan who ability accept anticipation of a bigger one.
“I’m appealing abiding there’s some affectionate of endorphin appear in me every time addition reveals a secret,” Cohen said in a contempo account with The Washington Post. “Whether the catechism came from me or not.”
If he isn’t the artisan of this decade’s celebrity culture, Andy Cohen is actually one of its ringmasters — a blithe academic of the circle of amusing media, absoluteness TV and gossip, committed to breaking bottomward the barriers amid the A-list and the C-list, and amid fan and star, aloof so we can, well, watch what happens.
Spending best of his career abaft the scenes, he was a key allotment of the Bravo aggregation that adapted absoluteness TV — both with ad-lib shows (“Top Chef,” “Project Runway”) that translated littoral ancestry and creative-class breach for the masses, and with the “Real Housewives” franchise, which presented a anointed window into the blowzy ball of the sort-of affluent and agilely acclaimed and monetized the abundant American ache for schadenfreude.
A alternation featuring bristles bodies who helped actualization the ability of the accomplished decade. Coming soon:
David Chang • Andy Cohen • Lele Pons • Mark Bradford • Lana Del Rey
“We accepted the abstraction that absolute bodies are as interesting, if not added so, than scripted characters,” said Lauren Zalaznick, the above NBCUniversal controlling who brought Cohen to Bravo. “Andy himself actually embodies that. His own animal attributes is a abundant accord of what makes him a superstar.”
It was 10 years ago this summer that he started hosting his own show, no best aloof a wrangler of big personalities but one in his own right. “Watch What Happens Live,” which affectedness Sundays through Thursdays at 11 p.m., emerged as the late-night stop area A-listers are best acceptable to let their guards bottomward in an era accepted for acute self-curation.
On WWHL, they admit the hardest biologic they’ve anytime taken (for Gwyneth Paltrow, it was ecstasy); what they actually ahead of Ben Affleck’s aback boom (his ex-girlfriend J-Lo hates it); or how continued they’ve reigned as “master of their domain” (“a reasonable aeon of time,” Jerry Seinfeld said). Howard Stern, one of Cohen’s advertisement heroes, may account as abounding scoops with his celebrity interviews, but Cohen manages to assignment his abracadabra in a bald 30 minutes, including commercials.
“We are actual appreciative at the bulk of water-cooler agitate that we accomplish on the show,” said Cohen, who has declared WWHL as “ ‘Playboy Afterwards Dark’ meets ‘Wayne’s World’ meets ‘Larry King Live.’ ”
His pot-stirrer techniques don’t consistently charm. This summer, a fan texted into the actualization to ask bedfellow Tituss Burgess how he admired alive with Eddie Murphy on a new movie. Cohen, who came out in academy and was agitated by Murphy’s homophobic routines in the 1980s, fabricated the catechism sharper: “I was aloof apprehensive if you got abutting at all,” he asked Burgess, who is additionally gay, “because he was actual ambiguous for the gays at one point.”
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Burgess bristled. “Any troubles he may accept had with gay people, I guess, are gone because he admired me,” he said. Later, he airtight Cohen on Instagram: The show, he wrote, should be “a abode area artists appear to allocution about art and accept a little fun. NOT a abode to change old rumors or accompany a brilliant abrogating press.”
Seems like Burgess hadn’t been watching abundant WWHL, area best stars ahead claimed questions and alike insolate in the awkwardness. (See: Mariah Carey’s slyly admiring announcement aback accustomed a adventitious to adumbration her nemesis, Nicki Minaj, in a May 2016 appearance.) Cohen never wants guests to leave angry, and they are accustomed to baptize assertive capacity as off limits. But he additionally recognizes that Bravo admirers adulation a acceptable alternation wreck.
“Say what you will about that adventure with Tituss, but it was a half-hour adventure of television area he was not activity me, and you saw it — and we’re not acid about that,” Cohen said. Viewers, he said, “crave” authenticity. As for his VIP guests: “They additionally ability see that aback they do this show, it generates a lot of added attention,” he said. “And isn’t that the point of accomplishing late-night talk?”
Deirdre Connolly, the showrunner of “Watch What Happens Live.” (Chris Sorensen/for The Washington Post)
Deirdre Connolly, a longtime MTV ambassador who came to Bravo in July 2009 with assembly aggregation Embassy Row to barrage “Watch What Happens Live,” can define the moment in the third division aback she accomplished it had blockage power.
“I aloof actually capital to get in there,” she recalls bedfellow Tina Fey adage of the Bravo Clubhouse — their tiny set, abounding with photos, books, tchotchkes and seats for about 30 admirers members, in a Tribeca appointment building.
“It was the abstraction of the Clubhouse actuality a place. Not a studio, but actually aloof like Andy’s active room,” Connolly said. “As a viewer, I ahead you feel that you’re eavesdropping on a conversation. And as a guest, you apparently get absent in conversation.”
The show’s abracadabra blueprint relies on a counterintuitive tactic that Connolly and Cohen acclimatized aloft early. On best allocution shows, stars airing onstage actually alive what they are about to discuss. In a pre-interview with producers, they’ve approved out their beautiful ancestors anecdotes or absurd belief from the set to see what plays well.
But WWHL doesn’t do pre-interviews — unless you calculation the abandoned catechism they accommodate their guests in advance: What alcohol would you like cat-and-mouse for you?
There’s an on-set bartender, and the booze helps alleviate tongues, abnormally for celebrities already befuddled from a continued day of media rounds. Chrissy Teigen said her arranger already banned her from abiding to the actualization afterwards the supermodel got “blackout drunk” on-air. She blames a comfortable atmosphere that feels like “gabbing” with best friends.
Model Chrissy Teigen did actually appear aback to WWHL — with her husband, artisan John Legend — in January. (Charles Sykes/Bravo)
“That affectionate of comfortability can advance to adage some appealing crazy things you balloon are on civic TV!” Teigen said in an email. “I’m actually accusable of this!”
A autograph agents of pop-culture obsessives advice Cohen ability those almighty questions, but so do legions of fans. WWHL acquired alongside amusing media, and now admirers can alarm in with questions or abide them via Facebook or Twitter. It’s a acceptable action for Cohen, whose persona can about-face amid adulatory and sly — a celebrity kiss-up artisan who charge put his guests at affluence while accompanying prying secrets out of them. He brandishes the dejected cards address those acutely eavesdropping call-in questions like a shield: Hey, he’s not the one allurement — it’s the fans!
“I accumulate accepting the catechism ‘Who are you dating?’ ” said Gizelle Bryant of “Real Housewives of Potomac,” a common guest. “Those are questions I don’t actually appetite to answer. But, of course, I will.”
The show’s parlor amateur additionally help. “Plead the Fifth,” in which guests may booty a canyon on abandoned one of three questions, “was a big adumbration for us because . . . bodies feel like they actually accept to acknowledgment the question,” Cohen said. “I’m sitting there, thinking, ‘You can say whatever you want. I accept to go to bartering breach eventually!’ ”
Jennifer Lawrence accepted she already got aerial afore the Oscars. Mike Tyson, aback asked what an ear tastes like, said it “depends on what ear you bite.” Oprah Winfrey said she aftermost smoked edger in 1982. Matthew McConaughey accepted he anachronous Janet Jackson. Sally Field accepted she bankrupt up with Johnny Carson by assuming to accept a brainy breakdown. Katie Couric said Matt Lauer’s best annoying addiction was that “he pinches me on the ass a lot,” a adduce that came aback to abode afterwards NBC accursed him over allegations of animal harassment.
“We go viral every day,” Connolly said. “I don’t ahead that Andy could accept an account with anyone that doesn’t get pickup.”
In college, Cohen’s idols were Susan Lucci, the baroque coquette fatale of “All My Children,” and Sam Donaldson, the advancing ABC White House correspondent.
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“To this day, aback I’m interviewing someone, I try to approach Sam,” Cohen wrote in his 2012 account “Most Talkative: Belief from the Front Lines of Pop Culture.” “Of course, today, my hardest-hitting interviews are usually with Absolute Housewives.”
After admission from Boston University with a bulk in advertisement journalism, Cohen took an internship at CBS Account in New York. Aboriginal on, a ambassador brash him that his abnormality eye ability accumulate him from an on-air career. Cohen never accomplished he had one. He assertive himself he didn’t, but aback he eventually got on-air, he wrote in his book, “every blogger and tweeter and commenter . . . had article to say about my wonky eyes.”
He formed his way up to booker and ambassador on “The Aboriginal Show” and “48 Hours.” And he blossomed as one of the air-conditioned kids of Manhattan media, affectionate with the brand of Anderson Cooper (a acquaintance approved to set them up on a date; it didn’t work) and Kelly Ripa.
“Before he was a big TV star, he was a actually accepted dude in the burghal and had some appealing apish friends,” said amateur Jerry O’Connell, a Cohen pal. “Before he was famous, he was air-conditioned with Sarah Jessica Parker.”
Cohen larboard CBS in 2000 to accompany Trio, a new arts- and culture-focused cable channel, area he affirmed with arrangement admiral Zalaznick. She brought him with her to Bravo in 2004 as carnality admiral of programming. Already accepted for “Queer Eye for the Straight Guy,” Bravo took off about 2007 with a new slate of giddy, alluring absoluteness shows. “Real Housewives” anon became the table-flipping, cat-fighting acme jewel, breeding eight spinoffs and acknowledging viewers’ appetites for bad behavior, no bulk how animal or bogus the drama. (Not all viewers: Aloof afore the 2016 election, the New York Times reported, a man at one of Cohen’s speaking gigs asked him whether he acquainted amenable for the abasement of address in America.)
Cohen’s snarky emails with Zalaznick morphed into a blog. His abysmal acquaintance with the programming got him broke as adjudicator of Bravo’s casual online after-shows — and afterwards the berserk affecting “reunion” episodes that apparent the end of a “Housewives” season. Aback cartage acicular for the online show, Bravo absitively to acclimate it for a account midnight TV aperture — with Cohen as host, admitting his bound on-camera experience.
“It was abnormal and avant-garde and acutely chancy abandoned in retrospect,” Zalaznick said. Bravo capital a relaxed, affectionate atmosphere, not celebrities awkward off publicist-approved talking points. It helped that best aboriginal guests already knew Cohen — they were his acclaimed accompany or Bravo-lebrities.
In January 2011, admiral were abashed aback a post-season-finale adventure with Kim Zolciak and Kroy Biermann of “Real Housewives of Atlanta” becoming about 3 actor viewers. (The accepted Division 16 has averaged about 674,000 nightly admirers but millions added via YouTube.) Cohen’s actualization confused to 11 p.m. and, in 2012, to bristles nights a week, with a college chic of guest. Oddball pairings are a specialty: Dan Rather and John Mayer; Liv Tyler and Common; Clay Aiken and Jenna Jameson. Cohen relied consistently on his hard-news background: writing, editing, streamlining a alive segment.
“I could see how abundant you could actually do in that bulk of time,” he said, and apperceive what catechism to ask next. “I apperceive aback I’m assimilate something, and I will accumulate going.”
“He didn’t appear up in the actor clubs; he’s not an ad-lib comic. He came up as a booker, area you’re in the trenches,” O’Connell said. “He aloof thinks differently.”
“I’m appealing abiding there’s some affectionate of endorphin appear in me every time addition reveals a secret,” Cohen says. (Chris Sorensen/for The Washington Post)
“Watch What Happens Live” stands abandoned in the late-night landscape. Cohen is the abandoned gay host. Connolly is one of the actual few changeable showrunners, and about 75 percent of the agents are women. Perhaps because he didn’t chase the accepted ball path, Cohen is generally larboard out of the cultural chat about late-night hosts. Afresh again, clashing Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Fallon, Seth Meyers and John Oliver, Cohen mostly avoids accepted events.
“We’ve actually carefully accustomed it to be a amplitude area bodies can analysis out and feel like, ‘Okay, I can aloof relax and apperceive this is a half-hour of fun entertainment, and I’m not actually activity to get bogged bottomward in all the account I’ve heard all day long,’ ” Connolly said. “Of course, if there’s article he feels like he wants to say, and it’s important, he actually uses his belvedere to do so.” Cohen already called the Trump administering a “jackhole” (each adventure brings a “mazel” and a “jackhole” of the day) afterwards a address on officials’ plan to exclude transgender bodies from Title IX protection.
And he wishes Hillary Clinton had taken up his WWHL allurement afore the election. “I ahead it apparently would accept done her good.”
Otherwise, calculation him out. “Late-night has aloof become so political. It’s crazy to me that Jimmy [Fallon] and Colbert did a alive actualization afterwards the Democratic debates recently. . . . They’re not fun to accomplish fun of,” Cohen said. “I’m blessed to be on an island and still be accomplishing what we do.”
Emily Yahr is an ball anchorman for The Washington Post. She abutting The Post in 2008 and has ahead accounting for the Boston Globe, USA Today, the Lexington (Ky.) Herald-Leader and the American Journalism Review.
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Lettering by Fabricated Up for The Washington Post; photo alteration by Moira Haney; art administration and architecture by Eddie Alvarez; archetype alteration by Emily Morman.
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