The two TV hosts and longtime friends have very different traits that come together in a traveling show.
Strange but true: You can thank Bill O’Reilly and Dennis Miller for a joint tour featuring Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen.
Three years ago, Cooper interviewed Cohen at the 92nd Street Y in New York to discuss the publication of “The Andy Cohen Diaries.” The event was wildly fun for both spectators and the two longtime friends on stage, who have a loose, playful chemistry.
That inspired Cooper’s agent, who also represents conservative faves Miller and O’Reilly. Those two have been hitting the road successfully for several years. A light bulb went off for Cooper’s agent.
“He said he bet that if we set our minds to it, we could come up with something that is similar, but different,” Cohen recounts during a call from New York. “We did.”
Since then, the journalist and the Bravo kingpin have been hitting venues across the country in an intermittent tour. There are two shows in June, including the Phoenix gig at Comerica Theatre, then two shows in October and one in December. In other words, this is not a grueling, tightly scheduled series of back-to-back one-nighters.
“We go where Andy wants to go,” Cooper says in a separate phone call. “He probably comes in advance to suss it out for a couple of days, so he knows what he wants to do and where he wants us to socialize.”
When Cooper travels alone, it’s a different story.
“I’m completely the opposite,” he says. “I just go back to the hotel to recover. I’m in a zone of quiet. I was in Phoenix a couple of months ago for ’60 Minutes,’ and I didn’t go out of the hotel room.”
On with the show
That mix of personalities is one of the draws of the show. During a performance, which is promoted with the tagline “deep talk and shallow tales,” the two will sit on stage. Cohen will drink; Cooper probably won’t.
“I’m really lame,” Cooper says. “If I drink at all, I may have a glass of wine. Andy likes to drink a Fresquila, which is basically Fresca combined with tequila. I thought Fresca had gone away, but that’s his drink of choice. So, he might mix me a Fresquila. It is quite tasty.”
The two talk and swap stories, and then there’s a Q&A segment with the audience. Topics range from “Real Housewives” gossip (Cohen’s baby) to personal stuff to the occasional political question. To guarantee there’s an element of surprise, the two ask audience members not to post information about the show’s content on social media.
“It’s kind of whatever happens, happens,” Cohen says. “There’s some stuff we map out, but it is really off-the-cuff.”
Cooper says the Q&A segment is when the show really gets risky. Early on, they learned stopping the show to take photos or hug fans was a no-no.
“Initially, when we were first doing the show, that’s when it could go off the rails,” Cooper says. “It needs to be fun for everybody in the room. The room will turn on (audience members) if they’re not entertained.”
People who enjoy the hard-hitting, empathetic newsman side of Cooper may be surprised at what gets discussed. This probably won’t be the right setting to ask him about his take on the war in Darfur, for example.
“This is not a serious lecture about politics and world events,” Cooper says. “This is everything under the sun. People want to feel like they’ve had a night out drinking with us. The questions reflect that. There’s maybe been one or two political questions, but people want to know some really wildly inappropriate things, or ask stuff about our friendship.”
That friendship goes back more than 20 years. The two met when a mutual pal tried to set them up on a date. Cooper was turned off when Cohen asked about his mom, Gloria Vanderbilt, in the first five minutes.
Indeed, the two guys seem fundamentally different. Cohen’s upbringing was very nice and normal, but he always had a passion for celebrity and pop culture. He’s perhaps at his most engaging on “Watch What Happens Live” when he’s interviewing someone from the favorites of his youth, like the stars of “The Facts of Life.”
Contrast that to Cooper’s childhood. He grew up among New York’s wealthiest families, surrounded by celebrities and bold-faced names from the society column. Vanderbilt was friends with everyone from Andy Warhol and Truman Capote to psychic Walter Mercado (Cooper’s stories about the latter are hilarious).
“I grew up with the kind of life Andy dreamed of living when he was a kid,” Cooper says. “My mom took me to Studio 54 twice, and Andy grew up reading about Studio 54.”
Even their psyches seem wildly different. Cohen loves being the center of attention. Cooper says he’s so introverted that it takes him a week to emotionally recover after a performance (perhaps surprisingly, Cooper is warm and engaged in conversation while Cohen is reserved and prone to quick, short responses).
“Andy says this is the best version of me you’ll ever see anywhere,” Cooper says of being on stage. “It’s like being on ‘Howard Stern’ and you know you’ve got to rise to the occasion. I go there knowing I’m going to be on stage and I’m in front of up to 3,000 people who want to have a good time. It’s so weird for me to be telling personal, funny stories, and be engaged in that way, but I’ve come to look forward to it. It’s such a departure from my regular life.”
So if you ran into Cooper at a party, he’d be quiet?
“I do not go to parties,” Cooper says with a chuckle. “I’m the person that’s usually in the kitchen checking their phone for when it’s the appropriate time to leave or I’m sitting in the corner somewhere pretending to look at the coffee-table books.”
How did these two get so close?
“We’re such opposites in so many ways, which I think is one reason we have the friendship we have,” Cooper says. ‘“I talk to him throughout the day. It’s a yin and yang kind of thing, yes, but it’s more because we have been friends for such a long time.”
Cooper is pals with a lot of people who are far more outgoing. He has delightful chemistry with Kelly Ripa; “Live!” watchers were disappointed when he took his hat out of the ring to be her co-host. His New Year’s Eve pairings with Kathy Griffin — which apparently have come to an end following her Donald-Trump-severed-head photo debacle — were a scream. Griffin would be outrageous while he appeared to be uncomfortable, yet having fun.
“Uncomfortable yet having fun: That’s sort of every day of my life,” he says. “I can pretty much work with anybody. I like genuine people, people who are themselves and who are having fun with me.”
Another reason why the friendship — and, one imagines, the live show — work so well.
Reach the reporter at [email protected] or 602-444-8849. Twitter.com/randy_cordova.
Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen
When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 9.
Where: Comerica Theatre, 400 W. Washington St., Phoenix.
Details: 602-379-2888, livenation.com.
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