It seemed like an odd pairing – Andy Cohen, the host of a bawdy, boozy late-night TV show on Bravo, Watch What Happens Live, and executive producer of that network’s Desperate Housewives franchise, and Wolf Blitzer, the deadpan, serious CNN news anchor, onstage together. In a synagogue.
Indeed, Blitzer blushed at some of the audience members’ Not Safe for Work questions and Cohen’s answers during the hour-and-a-half-long event last Saturday night at Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, co-sponsored by Politics & Prose.
Cohen, who in 2012 was named one of GQ’s 25 best-dressed men of the year, was in town to promote his new memoir, The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year, inspired by The Andy Warhol Diaries, the late pop artist’s own navel-gazing, name-dropping tell-all tour of a year in his life.
But when the sold-out audience of screaming women and a few men wasn’t asking Cohen, 46, about his fantasy bedroom conquests or outright propositioning him, Blitzer managed to elicit from the TV personality some interesting, funny and even poignant insights about his Jewish upbringing, his experience coming out as a gay man and his relatively late star turn.
Like Neal Simon’s original odd couple, Blitzer and Cohen developed an entertaining banter that, like Cohen’s unscripted talk show, felt spontaneous and unforced, even without the trademark on-air tequila shots. When, for example, Blitzer asked Cohen to name his dream guest for WWHL, Cohen wasted no time in answering “Michelle Obama.” Replied Blitzer: “You know, she has a husband, and they live just a few blocks from here.” These days, said Cohen, “I hear you can walk right in through the front door!”
An even funnier – and sharper – exchange came a few minutes later, when Blitzer asked Cohen if he had any special travel plans this holiday season. “I had hoped to visit the Philippines,” said Cohen.
“Why aren’t you still interested in going?” asked the CNN host. “There was a typhoon there today,” said Cohen, shaking his head incredulously. “Did you watch the news today?”
Cohen described himself as a news junkie since childhood. “It’s exciting, interesting and encompasses everything.” Eventually, he followed his hero, Dan Rather, to CBS News, where he worked as an intern before climbing his way into the producer’s chair at shows 48 Hours and CBS This Morning.
Cohen joined Bravo in 2004 and was offered his own late night talk show in New York City. “Did you ever think you’d have this kind of success?” Blitzer asked him. “I didn’t not think it would happen,” said Cohen to peals of laughter from the crowd. “I worked behind the camera my whole life. This has just happened in the last seven to eight years,” he said. “It’s been fun, wonderful.”
Also history making. Cohen is the first and only openly gay host of a late night television show, a fact that brings him great, well, pride. He feels the same way about his Jewish heritage (“I had a bar mitzvah, confirmation and went to a summer camp that was all about swimming and Jews”), and he works Judaism into his show wherever possible. Every night on his show, he awards a “mazel” to someone for doing a particularly good deed. His Jewish mother scolds him for his pronunciation (“you’re not saying it right!”) and keeps his healthy ego in check.
“She is constantly warning me not to go on Bill Maher’s show, not that they’ve tried to book me,” Cohen told the Sixth & I audience. “She tells me ‘You can’t keep up with him.’ I tell her ‘You think I’m too dumb to be his guest!’ and she says, ‘You just can’t keep up with him.’”
For agreeing to share the stage with him, Cohen awarded Blitzer his mazel of the day. Then the two toasted each other with glasses of blue-purple Manischewitz wine, to the crowd’s delight.
Like a good reporter, Blitzer followed up on Cohen’s Michelle Obama booking before the curtain fell. “Will she come on your show?”
Answered Cohen: “She told me ‘That’s a very late in the second term thing.’ ”