One likes his cocktails, the other is not a big drinker. One is out on the town every night, the other’s a homebody. One earned his rep reporting live for CNN from dangerous war zones, the other herding battling housewives on Bravo. One grew up wealthy under the disco lights of Studio 54 as the son of famous heiress Gloria Vanderbilt, the other in a St. Louis suburb he calls “Pleasantville.”
Newsman Anderson Cooper and reality TV producer/talk-show host Andy Cohen might seem an unlikely pair of fast friends, but separate chats with them reveal they’re more simpatico duo than odd couple. Cooper, 48, and Cohen, 47, will take the State Theatre stage Saturday night as “AC2” in a loosey-goosey, semi-scripted, audience-interactive show in which they poke fun at themselves and each other. Both “deep talk” and shallow tales” are on the bill, presumably more of the latter. Gotta give the fans what they want.
Q: You two “met” years ago through a phone call that was supposed to turn into a blind date that never happened. Who realized first it wasn’t going to work?
Cooper: Me, right away. I just imagined him gesticulating a lot while he talked and thought, no.
Cohen: Oh, he’s so nasty about that. He acts like I was flailing around wildly. I’m an enthusiastic person and he’s very low-key. I thought we had a delightful talk and were going to go out. One of the reasons our show is so fun is that with me, what you see is what you get, and I bring out the party in Anderson. I force him to do a shot of tequila before we go on stage. People say they’d love to go out for drinks with us, and that’s what this basically is.
Q: So how did you get to be such close pals?
Cooper: You mean after I didn’t return his calls? We had friends in common and would run into each other and just became friends. I forgot about the phone call. Andy apparently remembered it quite vividly and I thought, maybe I didn’t make myself clear.
Q: How often do you see each other and what do you do together?
Cooper: We text each other a couple times a day with weird stuff that comes up in our jobs. Andy is the most social person and I’m a recluse so we just go to each other’s house once every two weeks or so.
Cohen: I’ll see him this weekend. He’s having a birthday party for Kelly Ripa. We’re constantly in touch but he has a crazy schedule and so do I. He’ll say, “I’m doing pope coverage till 6 tonight, then I’m going to Greece.” Hold on a second. (Takes another call on a different phone.) Yes, if you take me to the Polo Bar. You take the dog with you. OK? Hi, I’m back.
Q: You have a dog?
Cohen: A beagle foxhound mix, Wacha, he’s named for a St. Louis Cardinals pitcher.
Q: How did this tour come about? You already have so much going on.
Cooper: I did an interview with Andy when his second book came out and we had so much fun we decided why not do it some more? So far we’ve been to Boston, Chicago, Miami and Atlanta. We tell the stories we can’t tell on TV. We try to surprise each other and push each other.
Cohen: I woke up this morning at 7, did a two-hour radio show, taped an episode of my TV show, walked the dog, worked out and now I’m going to interview someone for a show, then dinner and my live show tonight. That’s about six hours of broadcasting in one day. I like what I do, but this show is like downtime to spend with Anderson.
Q: What do you two have in common?
Cooper: When I met Andy he was a news producer [Cohen worked for CBS News for 10 years], so other than him being more obsessed with pop culture than I am, it’s a similar work background.
Cohen: I love making him laugh. We have a shared experience because we’re both on live TV every night. He’s been a great professional support and guide for me. And I love to gossip with him.
Cooper: For Andy, it’s as much about going out after the show as it is the show. He will usually go a day or so in advance to suss out the city. In Miami, by the time I got to our hotel, I walk out to the pool, the palest guy on the planet, and he knew everybody there and all their back stories. It was like an episode of “Real Housewives.”
Q: So, Andy, should I alert your fans to some possible pre-show sightings here?
Cohen: Not this time. But I love Minneapolis, I’ve been there on book tour and for the All-Star celebrity baseball game.
Q: What are you two going to banter about on stage?
Cooper: A lot is between just us and the audience. It’s a hermetically sealed environment where everyone’s in on the fun. Sometimes we’ll say, “Please don’t tell anyone what we talked about.” ◄
Q: How do you surprise each other on stage?
Cooper: We’ll bring up a story to see if the other one will take the bait. Andy writes “real housewife” taglines for me. I like to read these letters that Andy wrote to his mom from sleepaway camp when he was a kid. They are the gayest letters a third-grader has ever written, all about Cher and Olivia Newton-John in “Grease,” the same kind of things he talks about now.
Cohen: Oh my God, it’s constant. It’s so easy to make him blush or giggle or get uncomfortable on stage. I’ll ask him questions about boys or how rich he is. There are a million ways to get him going. He surprised me recently, though. He brought out some shirtless photo of me with a bunch of men and accused me of setting up the shot. Low blow.
Q: You two go on a couple of vacations a year. Traveling abroad can bring out the best and worst in people and be a true test of friendship. Do you travel well together?
Cooper: We’re time-tested. Except the one time on the way to this village in Brazil, Andy had the responsibility to do all the check-in, usually my job. He lost my luggage. I was without my clothes for days.
Q: Did he at least lend you some clean boxers?
Cooper: I don’t really want to wear his underwear.
Q: Anderson, you just got spanked on stage by Madonna a couple of weeks ago, and you’re going to moderate the first Democratic debate a few days after your show here. How can you be a serious journalist one day and then dish for dollars with an entertainment impresario the next?
Cooper: We live in an age when audiences know we’re all multidimensional people. You don’t have to only be interested in politics or world events, you can like going to the movies. It’s not like hosting “SNL,” as long as you’re honest and up front and only tell things that have actually happened. I take the news very seriously, but don’t take myself as seriously.
Q: Andy, what if Anderson gets his notes mixed up for the Minneapolis show and the Democratic debate?
Cohen: The way the presidential race is going, it’s already so hilarious I don’t think the script would be that different. I’ve gotten so many tweets during the Republican [debates] saying I should be hosting. They’re like a “Housewives” reunion.
Q: Andy, you’re known as a darn good celebrity interviewer on your talk show “Watch What Happens Live.” What’s your secret?
Cohen: I was at CBS News for 10 years, where my job was to get things out of people before they went on camera, and before that studied broadcast journalism. I try to be disarming, let my guests know I’m on their team and phrase questions in a friendly way.
Q: Why do you think the “Housewives” franchise has been such a runaway success that fans can’t get enough of?
Cohen: I think the show has replaced the soap opera. You never know what’s going to happen, as unreal as it seems. It’s sometimes fun to laugh at, other times to laugh with. Even though these women don’t behave like you or I might, there’s something weirdly relatable, about friendship and marriage and motherhood, that connects with people.
Q: May we end with an update on your mothers, Gloria and Evelyn?
Cooper: My mom is great, she’s 91. I’ve been working on an HBO documentary about her. We’re doing a book together that comes out next spring. She is very supportive of everything I do. Andy’s mom is pretty tough.
Cohen: My mom’s a realist. She keeps me in check. She’ll be terrified if I tell her the size of the theater we’re coming to. She’ll look it up and say, “Oh, no, that’s too big, that many people won’t come to see you guys.” That’s just how we communicate in my family. She keeps me grounded.
Kristin Tillotson • 612-673-7046