As the host of Bravo’s What What Happens Live, executive producer of the reality TV juggernaut that is the Real Housewives franchise and head of development for the network for the better part of a decade, Andy Cohen has rubbed elbows, tossed back drinks and got down and dirty with stars of all stripes—and the BU grad is as adept at wrangling tipsy Housewives as he is interviewing the likes of Oprah. Such exploits that form the basis of his new memoir, The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year. We tapped him for dirt before his Dec. 4 chat with The Improper’s Jonathan Soroff at the Leventhal-Sidman Jewish Community Center and meet-and-greet at the Brookline Booksmith on Dec. 5.
Tell us a little about the new book. It’s a year in my life. It’s inspired by The Andy Warhol Diaries, which is the most incredibly name-droppy account of his life. When I read it, I thought that it was just amazing that he lived the life that he lived and that he went out all over the place. It just seemed so fun. He was rubbing elbows with all of these bold-faced names, and it just seemed so cool. So I realized last year that, you know, I go out every night, I’m rubbing elbows with all of these people, I’m traveling around the world—I’m going to take this inspiration and see if I can do my own version of it. So I wrote an incredibly name-droppy and incredibly fun account, from September to September, that is not only behind the scenes of a late night talk show, but it’s falling in love with a dog… There’s a lot of Bridget Jones’s Diary in there. There’s a lot of dating, and I rescue the dog and I wind up falling in love with the dog instead of a person, but I’ll take what I can get. There’s a ton of travel and hilarious stories that go on behind the scenes of Watch What Happens Live and in my life. I shot a Lady Gaga video while I was writing the book. I appeared on The Comeback. I played in this MLB celebrity softball game, which was kind of something that I was terrified to do. Really, the Housewives and Bravo are part of it, but they’re a small part of it.
That’s very funny you say that, because I totally agree. He loved the high and the low, and I do too. I love the Housewives and I love Meryl Streep, and they’re all on my show. I always thought that Warhol loved making real people famous, and I feel like I love the same thing. I think Warhol would be painting the Housewives if he were alive.
Was it strange, after spending so much time focusing the lens on other people and their lives, to have this opportunity to make it all about yourself? It was weird. I feel like this book is as close as I’ll ever come to starring in my own reality show. When I first started writing it, I told my editor, “I don’t know if I’m comfortable writing about dating and about guys.” It felt uncomfortable, but I wound up getting into it, into this great freedom of writing, and obviously being able to shape it myself. It’s really revealing, but it’s also going to allow me to live with my head up. It’s great if you star in your own reality show and you get to control the edit.
A little bit. I mean, they signed up for it though, so… Sure, I have sympathy for them, but a lot of times I’ll do a reunion show and people are tweeting at me saying, “How dare you ask those people that question! It’s so rude of you!” And I’m like, “Well, they actually signed up to be in a reality show about their personal life, so I don’t know what you’re talking about.”
On that note, on those reunion shows, you don’t really—and this is in no way a criticism, it’s to your credit—hold back what you’re feeling. When they’re being bullshit artists, you call them on it. Do you ever have trouble taking them seriously? I always take them seriously because, you know, I’m an executive producer of the show and it would not be in my best interests to not take them seriously. Usually what I’m thinking—people always ask, “What are you thinking during the show?”—usually I’m thinking about what kind of show we’re getting and if we’re getting enough. And if we have enough for two parts and if we’re getting enough questions about a certain topic, or too many. Usually I’m just kind of producing in my head.
I do. I think there are five people that I’m worried about, related to the book. I don’t want to tell you who they are, because I don’t want to flag them that there’s something… And I’m wondering who I’ll hear from. I don’t know yet.
Who would be a dream guest for you to have on Watch What Happens Live? I think probably Michelle Obama or Madonna.
If you had somebody like Michelle Obama on, would you tone down the show at all? I don’t think so. I think we would want it to be true to what the show is.
Yes, absolutely! Before Oprah was on, I was nervous. And there’s a story in the book about when Will Ferrell was on…and Steve Carell, and Jimmy Kimmel. I get nervous when straight male comedians come on, because… I don’t know. I’m not a comedian. I’m just kind of situationally humorous. I don’t know what it is, but I figured out while writing that it seemed like these guys all fit in the same category that I was getting nervous for.
People always ask me what my interactions with the Housewives are really like. The book starts when they had just laid off a bunch of the Housewives, and the interactions that I have with them afterwards are really revealing. Some of them are calling me fighting for their jobs back; some of their husbands call me fighting for their wives’ jobs back. It gets pretty intense.
You know, it changes every day based on what’s going on with them and the show.
If you had to spend an entire week, 24 hours a day, seven days a week, hanging out with one Housewife, who would it would be? It would probably be a Housewife who’s no longer on one of the shows so that we didn’t have to talk about business.
Very diplomatic. OK, who do you think is the funniest housewife? Oh god, there are so many. Bethenny, Nene…Vicki’s pretty funny. There are a lot of funny Housewives. That’s kind of a prerequisite.
Do they audition for the show? How does the process work Yes! They audition. Usually they’re referred by other Housewives, and they’re brought in because they’re friends with someone. So we interview them and we put them on tape and we interview them more. See how they already fit into the group, what they have going on. We all look at them and how it will fit into the group dynamic.
Let’s see. I would marry Lisa for the money, shag the Countess because she’s a good time, and kill Teresa because she’s already very happy with Joe.
I know, that was good, right?
I know! It was weird. That was a new one and I was like, “Okay, how am I going to get out of this?”
I would shag Slade, marry Mauricio and kill Simon.
Very good. Ok, Let’s play a quick round of “Plead the Fifth.” First, who’s the worst guest you’ve ever had? I plead the fifth!
Probably Kim Kardashian. I’ve met her and she’s really nice…but I think if you’re looking for wit and humor in the Kardashian family, it’s all about Khloé.
On that note, what’s your opinion of Kim’s famous…asset? I think it’s round and really enormous. I took a butt selfie with her on my show that was reprinted everywhere. People love her butt. My mom talked to me after and said, “Your father can’t stop talking about her ass!” It’s so funny.