Andy Cohen Wants To Be In The Late-Night Conversation

When Vanity Fair gathered 10 male late-night TV hosts for a photo shoot for its September 2015 issue, it left someone out.

Stephen Colbert, James Corden, Jimmy Fallon, Jimmy Kimmel, Conan O’Brien, John Oliver, Bill Maher, Trevor Noah — who had yet to host The Daily Show — Seth Meyers and Larry Wilmore were all in the photograph.

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However, Andy Cohen, whose Watch What Happens Live already had been airing on Bravo for six years, wasn’t. And he hasn’t forgotten that.

“I was very conscious that I wanted to be part of the late-night conversation,” Cohen tells Deadline. He admits that when he found out he wasn’t invited, he thought “this kind of sucks” and he was “salty” about the omission. “I know what we’re doing; I know what it means to people and I know what it means to me.”

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He believes one of the reasons that the show is “discounted” from the late-night conversation is that he is a host and an interviewer rather than a comedian.

Cohen is used to this by now, but he still wants to be in the late-night club, and deservedly so. He has hosted the same show for longer than any of the current crop of late-night talk show stars apart from Kimmel and Maher. He has hosted well over 2,000 shows, his show is celebrating its 15th anniversary this month, and he has had a litany of A-list guests including Oprah Winfrey, Meryl Streep, Lady Gaga, Ryan Reynolds, Mariah Carey, Jennifer Lopez, Will Ferrell and Jennifer Lawrence.

He also persuaded the likes of Hillary Clinton and Dan Rather to drink a shot out of a ski.

This is not to besmirch the usual litany of guests from the Bravo universe, the majority of whom regularly make the pilgrimage to Soho in New York to gossip and dish on their co-stars.

This includes moments such as Vanderpump Rules stars Lala Kent and James Kennedy getting told off for cursing too much, The Real Housewives of Atlanta star Dwight Eubanks showing off his penile implant and an incident where The Real Housewives of Beverly Hills star Brandi Glanville accused Real Housewives of Miami star Joanna Krupa of having a particular odor that turned into a defamation lawsuit.

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Watch What Happens Live is very modern late-night talk show,” Cohen says. “We live in an age where everyone is a star because of reality TV.”

He highlights the fact that Real Housewives of New York stars Dorinda Medley and Jenna Lyons and Real Housewives of New Jersey star Teresa Giudice now are being asked on The Tonight Show.

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“When Scandoval exploded, [WWHL] was getting a million viewers live on Tuesday nights, and it was fantastic,” he added.

But Cohen is different to the Colberts, Fallons, Kimmels and Meyers of the world. Obviously, the show is 30 minutes rather than an hour, but it ditched the traditional format from the start. Cohen was putting two people on the show together long before The Late Late Show with James Corden was (something Cohen admits he borrowed from The Graham Norton Show in the UK). There’s no opening monologue and no pre-show interviews with guests. And there’s booze.

It’s also live. In a GQ profile, the magazine said the show had a “volatile looseness.” Cohen tells Deadline that the “danger is baked in” because it’s live.

The show also creates headlines and hardly ever because of a certain former president. Case in point, an episode earlier this year with Sofia Vergara generated a lot of press for the fact that the Modern Family star revealed that she wouldn’t date men more than two years younger than her.

“Sometimes things become clickbait that just kind of pass me by [on the show],” he adds. “I didn’t really think about [Sofia saying that] and that became the big clickbait of the day from the show. I certainly welcome it.”

The best episodes of Watch What Happens Live are when two people from different worlds are paired together such as SNL’s Cheri Oteri with former NFL player Rob Gronkowski or Maggie Gyllenhaal with 50 Cent.

Cohen says they do that on purpose, for fun. He points to a recent episode with Troye Sivan and Reba McEntire where they talked about poppers or Clay Aiken coming on alongside porn star Jenna Jameson.

“We try to push it, and once a year I sent the whole team an email, which is a yearly reminder that we can do things that nobody else can do,” he adds. “Shows like that gives us energy.”

Cohen loves the chaotic shows, and he also loves having on someone who is incredibly famous, be it a Hillary Clinton or Julia Roberts, who is willing to play a game like Plead the Fifth.

“When they come down, it tickles me so much,” he says. “Because not only are they coming into my little world, but they have to schlep all the way down to Soho.”

Another unusual aspect of Watch What Happens Live is the fact that its showrunner, Deirdre Connolly, who previously worked at MTV on TRL, has been with the show since its launch. Cohen says that Connolly never sweats, even if some shows start without the guest being in the building (cough, Mariah Carey, cough). “She runs the ship, flawlessly, so all I ever see is that the ship is strong and going,” Cohen says. Its director, Rocco Flammia, has been with WWHL for more than ten years. “They just make me feel totally calm and comfortable, and we just do it.”

Deirdre Connolly & Andy Cohen (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo)
Deirdre Connolly & Andy Cohen (Photo by: Charles Sykes/Bravo)

The show is produced by Sony Pictures Television’s Embassy Row, which was founded by Michael Davies, who now is showrunner of Jeopardy! Cohen says that Davies was “crucial” in the early years and spent the first five years “guiding us.” “Now he’s in the Jeopardy! control room every day, but he’s like our godfather. He’s very proud of us, and he can’t believe what we’re doing.”

Cohen himself has some experience. He was an executive at Bravo for 0years, including as EVP Development and Talent from 2011-14. But he also was a news producer at CBS for 10 years before that, including on 48 Hours and CBS This Morning. “I had to think in terms of how much can we fit into 4½ minutes,” he says. “That’s really come into handy as a host and producer of Watch What Happens Live. I call the show ‘Short Attention Span Theater,’ and it’s amazing what we can cram into half an hour. My goal is to stop you from picking up the remote control. If we’re talking about something that is boring you now, I promise it’s going to be over within the next 45 seconds.”

But Cohen, who still exec produces the Real Housewives shows in addition to running two channels on SiriusXM, has flirted with leaving. “I think it was in Year 6, I started to hit the wall a little bit,” he says. “Craig Ferguson said that’s very common. I started to feel like I was kind of ticking a box. But I came to and I was like, ‘Oh my God, dude, you have your absolute dream job. This is a show of your imagination and everything about you,’ and I just kind of snapped out of it. I haven’t looked back since.”

The show, which airs Sundays through Thursdays, has been picked up through the end of 2025. Its 15th anniversary show airs at 9 p.m. Sunday, June 30. It’s also hoping for its first Emmy nomination in the Outstanding Talk Series category.

“Late-night is a very intimate thing for people because they’re going to bed and sometimes you’re the last person that they see,” Cohen says. “They’re also choosing you, and they’re comfortable enough to be with you. The connection that you have with your viewer is really special. I have a tremendous amount of gratitude. I know it sounds very hokey, but I really do.”

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