The Real Life of Andy Cohen
The Bravo reality TV bigwig goes uncensored on exec life, making it work and the things that mean the most in life
Not long into my interview with Andy Cohen—the St. Louis-bred brain behind the reality TV genius of Bravo—I started to think his life, in all its fabulous craziness, would make for some pretty interesting reality TV itself. After all, a meeting with the executive producer of his talk show, a working lunch with Isaac Mizrahi to review upcoming projects, a pre-interview for the “Today Show,” a pitch meeting for a new reality concept and an interview for a reality TV docu- mentary—not to mention an evening of after-work commitments that included the review of five DVDs by the night’s end—translated as a “mellow, low brain-power” day for the Bravo Senior Vice President of Original Programming and Development.
Not only is Cohen responsible for overseeing the network’s current development and production slate of over two dozen shows, which by the way, include such titles as “The Real Housewives,” “Top Chef,” “Shear Genius” and “Flipping Out,” but he also puts in his fair share of hours in front of the camera on his late-night talk show (“Watch What Happens: Live”) and the many unscripted, in-your-face reunion shows he’s hosted over his five-year career with Bravo.
If you’re not keeping up with his every move on his blog (“Andy’s Blog,” at bravotv.com/blogs/andys-blog), then rest assured you’ll hear his name someway, somehow, whether it’s from a longtime Clayton high school pal, a fellow Doorways supporter (he’s coming to St. Louis this month to host the AIDS housing and support organization’s RED gala on February 6) or the next time you’re watching the Emmy’s (given he’s a nine-time nominee). And this list, while impressive, wouldn’t be complete without a few other caveats Andy himself has added: his undeniable Midwest charm (which he’s managed to keep in-tact despite having lived in New York for the past 20 years), his anything-goes sense of humor and his ability to never ever take himself too seriously.
ALIVE: So, I’m guessing the schedule of a TV exec-producer- host-blogger-philanthropist is nothing short of insane?
Andy Cohen: It is. I wouldn’t have moved to New York if I didn’t think that sleep was overrated. My parents seem to be overly concerned about my sleep patterns, and while I’m appreciative that someone is, I always say to them they should be more concerned about if I’m really, really happy—and I am.
ALIVE: How do you manage to do it all?
AC: I just run on adrenaline and keep focused on the tasks at hand, and make sure there’s a carrot dangling in front of me at all times so I have something to look forward to. Then I power through to the reward, whether it’s doing my show (“Watch What Happens: Live”) at the end of the day or going to my favorite drink spot with friends after work.
ALIVE: Why reality TV?
AC: It’s where my career has taken me. I worked for CBS News for 10 years and then moved to a small cable channel called TRIO, where I worked on documentaries and nonfiction series. Both were amazing and taught me a lot about producing reality, about story construction and characters before coming to Bravo. What makes me so obsessed with Bravo is that we have great characters with great stories to tell, and I think we tell them really well.
ALIVE: Did you ever think reality would be this popular for this long?
AC: Actually, I did. It’s an incredibly valid form of television that you can do anything with, and I think it’s fascinating. There are a million different stories to tell. And let’s face it: Truth is always stranger than fiction.
ALIVE: I’ll bet you have a lot of experience with divas. How do you handle them?
AC: Oh, my god—I have so much! The best way to handle a diva is to let them know they are being heard, try to work with them, but don’t sell yourself out in the process. You have to have a backbone. I recently got myself in a situation where I was between these two very high-profile women, and I was so stressed out. Luckily, I have two good girl friends from Clayton High School who trained me for every kind of intense, driven, beautiful woman that I’ve ever found myself in contact with.
ALIVE: You’ve become quite the entertainment commentator. Who’s the most ridiculous celeb, and which star can’t you get enough of?
AC: Jessica Simpson is always a punching bag for me because I don’t think she has talent. I guess that’s mean, but I’ve never seen it. Tiger has proven to be quite ridiculous as well. I can never get enough of Madonna, and I love Kristen Wiig from “Saturday Night Live” because I think she’s absolutely hilarious. Give me a funny lady— anyone from Amy Sedaris to Molly Shan- non—and I’m in.
ALIVE: Anyone who’s seen your talk show or read your blog knows you don’t take yourself too seriously. Is this a must-have trait for your line of work?
AC: Totally. Especially as I get deeper into the on-air side, you have to be able to read or hear really mean stuff about yourself and just be OK with it.
ALIVE: You’re also very open about your sexuality. Has this always been easy for you?
AC: I was in the closet when I was in high school, and that was not easy. Hiding such a big part of myself and feeling like I couldn’t tell anyone was torturous at times. But then I went to school in Boston, and it was all good. Not long after I came out, my mom got involved in Doorways. My mom got involved as a result of me coming out. I think it’s a great organization. Seeing it all these years through my mom’s eyes and hearing what she’s doing has really made me proud. I’m excited to be coming back to St. Louis to host their RED gala.
ALIVE: What’s it like, now that you’ve made it?
AC: I’ve been thinking a lot lately that it’s important not to forget where you came from and who you are. I think people in St. Louis are pretty grounded, and they value family and have good traditions, and I try to keep that with me. That’s probably why, when I went with Madonna to this movie on Sunday night, I was like, “How did I get here?” I really can’t believe it. I think it’s so trite to say, but I’m totally living my dream, and I’m very grateful.
Photo by Payam