Back when there was a more prominent distinction between news and entertainment, it might have seemed like the worlds of Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen would hardly intersect. Cooper is a veteran journalist, CNN anchor and 60 Minutes correspondent. Cohen is best known as the face of TV network Bravo, popularizing The Real Housewives franchise and hosting his boozy late-night talk show, Watch What Happens Live (WWHL).
But much like the ever-changing worlds of politics and pop culture, the two have plenty in common. They have both won an Emmy Award, written bestselling books and look really good with gray hair. And then there’s reality television — lest we forget Cooper’s brief stint as host of The Mole.
Cohen and Cooper met on a blind date more than 25 years ago and have been close pals ever since. Their comedic chemistry has been on display on social media, WWHL and CNN’s New Year’s Eve Live, which the pair has hosted since 2017-18.
Over the past four years they’ve taken their friendship and all its stories on the road as part of their show, AC2 Live: An Intimate Evening with Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen, which makes a stop in Cincinnati Friday, Oct. 4.
The tour offers an unscripted, unfiltered, informal and intimate fireside chat with the two silver foxes, complete with an audience-engaged Q&A portion and embarrassing old video clips to boot.
“It’s like going out to a bar with us and hearing our stories,” Cohen says, evoking a similar vibe to WWHL.
Each show is unique, with topics changing depending on what’s happening in their lives and around the world, Cooper explains, “whether it’s a presidential debate or a Housewives reunion — which Andy now feels are pretty much the same thing.”
Cohen chimes in that he’s “always in the middle of some piece of pop culture nonsense and Anderson’s always in the middle of some world event or crisis or controversy,” though they both insist that AC2 is not political.
“There’s so much division, so much politics now,” Cooper says, “we just want it to be a night where anybody can come and just enjoy themselves.”
While neither are strangers to being on camera or in the public eye, the idea of “performing” in front of a large, often sold-out audience is still new and exciting to both of them.
“For me, it’s a huge change,” Cooper, who hosts CNN’s Anderson Cooper 360°, says. “Usually I’m either on location, just talking to a camera, or I’m in a studio that’s essentially a dark room with a lot of lights. So to have a live audience and get their instant reaction, to get them to laugh and respond to certain stories is unlike anything else.
“Learning and developing that skill in front of an audience is really cool. I can understand why stand-up comedians or people in Broadway shows love it so much, because it’s incredible.”
While many are quick to peg Cohen as the comedian and Cooper as the straight man, they say fans will be surprised to see the newsman’s more humorous side, which is typically reserved for his friends.
“I’ve learned how loose and funny Anderson is,” Cohen says, “and I think that’s a huge surprise for people. I think people expect me to be kind of silly, but they see a totally different side of Anderson and they love it.”
As is tradition on WWHL, the duo offers their “mazel” and “jackhole” of touring experiences (their most and least favorite aspect — think the rose/thorn, peak/pit sharing exercise). Both agree that traveling the country with a close friend is a highlight.
“When we first met each other, neither of us were well known to other people,” Cooper says. “Andy was working behind the scenes at CBS News as a producer and I had just started traveling around the world, covering wars and trying to become a correspondent. So it’s great to have a friendship where your careers have evolved together.
“To end up in this interesting, strange place in terms of our careers and to have somebody else to share that with — and then to be able to share it in a funny way and give a whole different perspective on it to audiences — it’s just a delight.”
They’re excited to bring their show to the Queen City for the first time (Cohen is set on trying Graeter’s while he’s here). When they have time, they explore new cities together — they even once showed up at a house party after someone invited Cohen via Instagram after their show — but often head back to their hotel to unwind before jetting off to the next stop.
Which brings us to their jackholes. For Cohen, it has to do with late-night munchies.
“My jackhole is how long room service takes at midnight when we get back to the hotel and we’re so hungry,” Cohen says. “Somehow there’s always a very long delay.”
Cooper confirms this, recalling a time when Cohen repeatedly called room service to check on an order, claiming it was a “double rush” — “Which isn’t even a thing. What is a double rush?” he asks — only to reveal that they were actually calling from Cooper’s room all along.
“They thought it was me!” Cooper recalls, pausing to contemplate his own jackhole.
“Well, I guess there was the guy that punched me,” Cooper offers nonchalantly, reserving any juicy details.
Perhaps they’ll regale us with the full story at the show.
AC2 Live: An Intimate Evening With Anderson Cooper & Andy Cohen takes place 8 p.m. Friday, Oct. 4, at the Aronoff Center’s Procter & Gamble Hall. Tickets/more info: cincinnatiarts.org.