Bravo and CNN might not generally attract the same audiences, but watch one episode of Real Housewives, and you might find some parallels between the melodrama of a birthday party and the high drama of a political party.
That’s what Andy Cohen and Anderson Cooper are counting on when they bring their live show, AC2: Deep Talk and Shallow Tales, to the Pavilion at Toyota Music Factory on Friday night, followed by a presentation Saturday in Houston; tickets are available through Ticketmaster.
Cohen is the host of Bravo's Watch What Happens Live and the executive producer of the Real Housewives franchises, while Cooper is anchor of Anderson Cooper 360° on CNN and a correspondent for 60 Minutes. As far as Cohen is concerned, though, their jobs aren’t that different: “It’s all wrangling people.”
In their live show, the two television personalities essentially interview each other, show video clips not always suitable for television, and take questions from the audience. This has proven to be the ideal recipe for an evening of laughter and debauchery peppered with personal anecdotes about the duo’s decades-long bromance.
We caught up with Cohen ahead of his visit to Dallas to find out more about the show, his friendship with Cooper and, of course, The Real Housewives of Dallas.
CultureMap: How did you and Anderson Cooper meet and become buddies?
Andy Cohen: We were set up on a blind date in the early ‘90s, but it didn’t happen. He said I was gesticulating too wildly on the phone, and I brought up his mother [heiress Gloria Vanderbilt], which he didn’t like. We would run into each other and see each other around, and we have mutual friends. We would end up going on a lot of vacations together, and for a long period of time, we would only see each other on vacation. We just got closer as the years went by, and, specifically in the last 10 or 15 years, have become great, great friends.
CM: What was the idea behind the show? How did you pitch it to producers and audiences initially?
AC: Basically, we didn’t have to. He interviewed me at a theater in New York promoting my second book, and his agent at the time represented Bill O’Reilly, who has been on tour with Dennis Miller for many years, doing this kind of conversation series. She said, gosh, your chemistry is so great, you should come up with some kind of a stage show conversation, and let’s tour with it. So, they set up a test date in Boston and it sold out very quickly, and people seemed to like it. The show has just evolved since then. It’s almost been three years that we’ve been doing this now.
CM: How has it changed since its inception?
AC: We’ve changed stories, we’ve changed some of the video clips. We’re better at it. Anderson is way looser. I think the big logline is how funny he is.
CM: Has the current political climate changed the tenor of the show?
AC: Not really. It’s not a political show. I do like to rib him that the presidential debates were a lot like Housewives reunions, so that’s something we talk about a little bit, but it’s really not a political show. It’s just fun and funny and a lot of dishy stories. It’s like being out at a bar with me and Anderson for a couple hours.
CM: How are you and Anderson Cooper different?
AC: He’s more reserved, I’m way more outgoing and social. He’s a catastrophist, I’m an optimist. He’s moody, I’m just happy!
CM: Would he agree with that assessment?
AC: Oh, I think so. All of it.
CM: Do you think you each attract different audiences to the show?
AC: Yeah, but I think within the same family. Maybe cousins?
CM: What should audiences expect from your shows in Texas?
AC: Our show is kind of set, and it also evolves. It’s things we know we’re talking about, and it’s off the cuff. We also open it up to questions at the end, and nothing’s off limits, so the vibe of the show is partly set by the audience. I have a lot of friends in Dallas who are coming to the show, and then Houston we’re both really excited to come to. I don’t really know anyone in Houston. I was there once as the grand marshal in the gay pride parade years ago, and I just loved it. I’m excited.
CM: Can we expect any juicy stories about the Dallas housewives?
AC: All of the Dallas housewives are coming to the Dallas show. They’re all invited, and they’re all coming, so I’m excited about that.
CM: How do you go about choosing the ladies who star on shows like RHOD or Married to Medicine Houston?
AC: I have nothing to do with M2MH, so I can’t take any credit for that one, but for Dallas, we have casting directors who go out and look for groups of friends, people in the same social circles. LeeAnne brought in D’Andra, and Kameron knew Cary, so now it’s about finding women who fit in the circle and having the other women bring them in.
CM: We’re gonna be honest and say we didn’t love the first season of RHOD. But we thought this second season was so much better.
AC: Yeah, we all did.
CM: What do you think made this season better?
AC: Well, season one, we weren’t sure if it was gonna be a Real Housewives or not when we were shooting. At first, we were really gonna focus on women who were involved in charities, so just the nature of the stories that we were looking to tell changed while we were shooting it and in post-production. So, that’s difficult, but the women were great both times. It was nothing they did.
CM: Any plans for additional Texas-based shows?
AC: I only executive produce the Housewives on Bravo. I used to be in charge of all programming, and I’m just not anymore.
CM: Well, might we recommend a Southern Charm: Austin and a Real Housewives of Corpus Christi? Could you pass those along?
AC: Interesting, interesting. OK, I’ll take those in.
CM: So. You’re coming to Texas. Have you ever had a breakfast taco?
AC: I have not.
CM: We think you need to eat one while you’re here.
AC: I do, too! We just can’t wait to come. We’ve been really looking forward to this, and we keep asking, “When are we going to Texas?” So we’re really excited.