Andy Cohen isn’t used to sitting in the hot seat. As host of Bravo’s “Watch What Happens Live,” and also executive producer of “The Real Housewives,” Cohen spends his nights schmoozing with the likes of Oprah, Lady Gaga and Neil Patrick Harris. But today, ahead of his appearance at the 63rd Jewish Book Fair at 2 p.m. on Nov. 16, he’s talking about himself and his new memoir, “The Andy Cohen Diaries: A Deep Look at a Shallow Year.”
As an interviewer, what’s it like having the tables turned?
It’s hard! I’m a control freak, so yeah, it’s difficult. It’s awkward, because when you write a book, it’s so different than doing press for your own show or anything else. It’s personal, and you spend so much time on it, and pore over it and think about it so much, so it’s more intense doing book press and getting out there with the book. But I’m very excited about it. I think it’s really fun and name-drop-y and very pop culture heavy, but it’s also really personal.
Would you say you’re doing exactly what you wanted to do as a pop culture-obsessed kid?
For sure. I’m getting to be myself on TV, which is just incredible, and have fun every night hosting a cocktail party in my little clubhouse. It’s great. I love my life and I love what I’m able to do, absolutely.
As a kid, did you ever imagine you could be out on television?
I never thought that I could do that, and someone pointed out recently that I’m the only gay late-night talk show host. I never thought I’d be that guy, so it’s cool to be there.
Who was your first celebrity obsession?
God, I had so many. I was obsessed with Cher, Charlie’s Angels, and Donnie and Marie.
I’m assuming Madonna, too, since you mention her at least 150 times in the book.
(Laughs) Yeah, I know; she’s in there a lot, right?
In the beginning of the book you say, “I’ve left the identities of a few people opaque because I don’t want to embarrass anyone too much – or be sued or fired.” How difficult is it to speak your truth but also maintain your career integrity?
It’s definitely a dance that I have to do. I wanted to be true to myself, and I wanted to give the reader something on every page – whether it was a laugh or some dish, or just a smirk or something warm – so I knew that I had to deliver. If you’re gonna write a diary, you just have to do it, but, on the other hand, I gotta do the show every night and I wanna keep getting big guests. For this, I just wrote on my laptop every day, basically.
Didn’t you also call an assistant to give her a run through of your day?
Well, the first few months started with me calling my friend and she was writing down what I was doing, yes.
Which celebrity required you to jump through the most hoops?
Oprah. It was a period of years where I was trying, and Gayle King really helped me with that booking. So, Oprah was years in the making.
Who are you most concerned will read the book and be bothered by your revelations?
Oh, that is a good question. Um, I think maybe Britney (Spears’) people. I definitely didn’t hold back there. I felt like when I originally wrote it, I really held back, and then I was like, “I just want to be true to this experience.” I’m still a fan – everything I write, I’m still writing from the perspective of a fan – so I think you’ll see that I really like her.
When has a face-to-face interaction with a celebrity turned awkward because of something you said about that person previously?
You know, I saw Khloe Kardashian at J. Lo’s birthday party, and originally when I saw her I felt like, “Oh, did I say something about her?” And then there was that moment where I saw will.i.am and I was like, “Did I say something about him?” I think I’m always kind of wondering if I’ve said things about people, but I’m not that bad of a shit-talker.
You are a shameless flirt, however. But who can blame you with Nick Jonas sitting right across from you?
I know; it’s bad! I was really shamelessly flirty with Ricky Martin and I was like, “Oh god, what did I do? Why am I doing this?” But what can I tell you? (Laughs)
When a gay stops you on the street, what do they say to you?
When gay guys stop me on the street, it’s typically to pitch some reality show. The thing I’ve learned is just never read comments about yourself on any gay websites. They’re so brutal and nasty.
They say, “He’s a self-promoting, queeny, bottom-feeding bottom and name-dropping starfucker.”
What is the most common misconception about you?
The only people who have that perception are the people who are commenting on gay blogs. And probably that I drink too much. Part of that is just for the show. I’m not even always drinking on the show!
What’s your advice on being proud of superficiality?
You just have to be true to yourself. I know that I’m not a superficial person; I know that I’m a deep person. But I’m also very self-deprecating, and I love to make fun of myself – that’s why I call it “A Deep Look at a Shallow Year.” I’m trying to signal to people that this book is humorous – that’s where I’m coming from with this book.
When you retire from Bravo, how many stories will you have to tell in that book that are too juicy to print now?
Oh, I definitely have that book. That book will come.