Andy Cohen hesitates when asked if he is the face of Bravo.
“There are many faces,” he finally says. “Some people consider Kathy Griffin the face of Bravo. Others think it’s Jeff Lewis.”
While that might have been true a few months ago, currently it’s safe to say that Cohen is Bravo’s main man.
At the NBCUniversal cabler since 2005, Cohen has been a driving force for many of the network’s unscripted hits, including “The Real Housewives” franchise, “The Millionaire Matchmaker” and “Top Chef,” a series that has received 19 Emmy noms and achieved what many pundits believed was impossible in 2010 when it won the Emmy for reality competition, beating “The Amazing Race,” which had dominated the category for seven years.
Cohen’s status forever altered in 2007, when the exec appeared in front of the camera as host of “Watch What Happens Live,” a 30-minute webcast born on BravoTV.com.
The skein (Cohen also serves as exec producer) turned into a live, smallscreen sensation in July 2009 and in January it moved to a Sunday-Thursday schedule.
Cohen calls the latenight interactive talk show — taped in SoHo on a set similar to a closet that seats just under 20 people — a mix between “Wayne’s World” and “Playboy After Dark.”
“We don’t pre-interview and we are in a very intimate setting,” he explains. “So it’s an authentic experience, which, I think, is part of the reason people watch the show.”
Averaging 1.2 million viewers, the low-budget skein features Cohen gossiping with the women of the sundry “Real Housewives” franchise, grilling “Top Chef” contestants and playing drinking games in his pajamas with A-list celebrities including Holly Hunter, Liam Neeson, Sarah Jessica Parker and Tina Fey.
The result is an awkward, entertaining, boozy experience — unique to its timeslot. The show and his ability to identify the pop culture zeitgeist before the masses, thus shaping what America is watching, has made Cohen more popular than the non-scripted reality stars, or as he calls them, “Bravolebrities,” whom he helped create.
So much so that in May, Henry Holt published the 44-year-old’s memoir, “Most Talkative: Stories From the Front Lines of Pop Culture.”
In it, Cohen describes the decade he spent as a booker and producer at CBS News. He also discusses his tenure at Bravo as well as his sexual orientation.
“I really wanted to write this book and now seemed like the right time,” Cohen says. “It was definitely a juggling act trying to do it while maintaining my job as an executive and television host.”
He managed to complete the book in four months by cutting back on sleep. The memoir has since become a New York Times bestseller.
While he continues to oversee program and talent development, Cohen has taken a step back from some of his daily duties at the cabler to focus on his show and promoting the memoir.
As for what’s next, Cohen says, “I have a live show to prepare for tonight. That’s all that I’m thinking about right now. I’m in the short term not the long term.”