If Bravo's master of ceremonies, Andy Cohen, were a cocktail, the recipe would go something like this: Mix one part executive (he's the senior VP of original programming and development) with one part on-air talent (since last July, he's hosted Watch What Happens Live, a talk show/post-party hybrid that's airing four episodes this week). Add a generous splash of superfan — Cohen is passionate about the world of so-called "Bravolebrities" to the point of zealotry — shake, and voilà...a bracing, thoroughly meta elixir that simultaneously controls your air waves while appearing on them. TV Guide Magazine sat down with Cohen at NYC watering hole Bedlam for a couple rounds of Maker's Mark-and-ginger-ales to find out what makes him tick.
TV Guide Magazine: Most suits don't get their own spotlight — how'd that happen?
Cohen: I always wanted to be an anchorman, but after college I wound up working behind the scenes at CBS News for 10 years. [Among other gigs, he was The Early Show's first talent booker.] Eventually I went to Bravo, where the on-air stuff just started very organically by me having a blog and doing interviews. When my executive producer asked if I would be interested in doing an on-air show, I said, "Absolutely."
TV Guide Magazine: Did hosting come naturally?
Cohen: The night that WWHL premiered, I wasn't nervous in the least. I felt like it was something I should be doing. And it feels like home in that clubhouse — probably because it's modeled after the den in my apartment. It's like I'm doing "Wayne's World."
TV Guide Magazine: Has the live format ever thrown you for a loop?
Cohen: Jerry Seinfeld razzed me mercilessly about The Real Housewives. It put me on the defensive. First I was laughing, then I started giving him crap back. So much TV is overly polished. I like that we're in this teeny set with 15 people in the audience and anything can happen — Naomi Campbell or Anderson Cooper can call in.
TV Guide Magazine: A lot of the guests you book — Sarah Jessica Parker, Kelly Ripa — are friends. How does that work?
Cohen: I don't ever want to put them in an uncomfortable position, and I always want them to suggest it.
TV Guide Magazine: When the taping is over, do you hit the town?
Cohen: It really depends on the person. If it's Kelly Ripa and Mark Consuelos — Neil Patrick Harris came by that night, too — then I'll say, "Let's all go to the Boom Boom Room."
TV Guide Magazine: Who would be your dream guest?
Cohen: Madonna. Look, I'm a big gay guy.
TV Guide Magazine: Wait...what?
Cohen: I know, isn't that a shock? I love divas. Madonna, Mariah, Beyoncé, Britney.
TV Guide Magazine: You were Madonna's date to the premiere of A Single Man. How was that?
Cohen: Definitely a bucket list moment. I don't want to say too much about it because then I'll never get asked again.
TV Guide Magazine: It's hard to believe now, but Bravo used to be kind of a programming wasteland. What are your early memories of it?
Cohen: I don't have any. When I was working at Trio, I was pitched Queer Eye for the Straight Guy and I knew, whoever gets this, this is a game changer. When I started at Bravo in 2005, it was a hit, and Season 1 of Project Runway was in postproduction.
TV Guide Magazine: The Housewives reunion shows have become a phenomenon — you even did a parody on SNL. What's it like being in the lion's den?
Cohen: I definitely have to take a big breath before I ask some of those questions. They're all eight-hour tapings and I hammer, hammer, hammer.
TV Guide Magazine: Confession: As a fan, it bugs me when reality stars get too famous.
Cohen: I remember first meeting Vicki Gunvalson from The Real Housewives of Orange County. She really was a housewife with an insurance business. It's so different now. I'm excited that these people have been able to build brands, but I'm very conscious of breaking the fourth wall. We're interested in them because of where they were when we found them.
TV Guide Magazine: Which shows are your pet favorites?
Cohen: I am so proud of Top Chef — I think it's got great cred. I love Tabatha's Salon Takeover and Bethenny Frankel's show. All the Housewives make me smile. I'm really upset that Flipping Out has never been nominated for an Emmy.
TV Guide Magazine: Any stinkers on your résumé?
Cohen: Yeah, a lot. I wish NYC Prep had found a bigger audience.
TV Guide Magazine: It did in my house! I was obsessed.
Cohen: I was, too. I thought that was a slam dunk.
TV Guide Magazine: Bravo has been called a gay network.
Cohen: The gay stars we have are not on because they're gay — they're on for something else and they just happen to be gay. I think that's the best way to help spread acceptance, because viewers feel like they're friends. I hope there's a kid on a playground who can turn on Bravo and see a great chef or designer and say, "Someday I'm going to be able to be who I am."
TV Guide Magazine: Did you have a hard time growing up?
Cohen: There was a part of myself that I was burying because I thought it wouldn't be accepted. I came out when I was in college.
TV Guide Magazine: With your schedule, do you have time to date these days?
Cohen: You make time. I am single and on the lookout. I have a date later tonight!
TV Guide Magazine: So what's left on your bucket list?
Cohen: I've had Tina Fey on the show. I got to throw out the first pitch at the St. Louis Cardinals game this year — that's my hometown. I was on Saturday Night Live. Right now, I'm swimming in the bucket.
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