“I wanted to be on TV,” Cohen told RuPaul and a packed audience at Santa Monica High School for Live Talks L.A. “I originally wanted to be on TV and be able to be myself on TV. I didn’t know what incarnation that would be. I thought that would be on a morning show because it seemed so diverse. I did major in broadcast journalism and worked at CBS News for 10 years.”
“When I started my time at CBS News, I kinda gave up on being in front of the camera,” he continued. “It was only 16 years into my TV career that through a wild series of events I ended up in front of the camera.”
“I think everybody here is a fan of the ‘Housewives,’ which is your baby. And that’s how you got in front of the camera, when it came time to doing reunion specials, you would host them,” RuPaul explained.
“That’s right,” Cohen replied. “My boss had me already writing a blog on BravoTV.com and hosting this web show calling ‘Watch What Happens’ and we needed someone to do a ‘Housewives’ reunion and she said, ‘would you want to do it,’ and I said ‘absolutely.'”
When the network asked Cohen how much he wanted for the hosting gig, Cohen responded “don’t pay me.”
“I was actually running programming at the time, and I knew that was the job I was meant to be in,” Cohen explained. “If you start thinking ‘Oh no, now I’m this [on-air personality],’ that’s never going to fly.”
“I took as little money from them as possible for as long as I could, and I just thought if I am ever worth something to these guys, at the time I’m worth something, that is the point I ask for what I’m worth. And I did.”
The rest, as they say, was reality TV history.
Since 2008, Cohen, who serves as executive producer on all of the franchise’s shows, has hosted more than 20 reunions, each an all-day affair and often broken up into several episodes.
He left his programming role to focus on hosting “Watch What Happens Live” five nights a week and a radio show, and his own book imprint (“Superficial,” his third book, was released in November and was the focus of the Live Talk event).
Cohen offered more insights into the “Housewives” franchise, saying that the Miami show “didn’t work out” and that he fought for a second season of “The Real Housewives of D.C.” but lost (Cohen called this year’s “Potomac” entry “D.C. adjacent”). When asked what the next “Housewives” city could be, Cohen replied, “maybe Nashville?”
And what of an “Real Housewives: All Stars” spinoff, featuring the biggest personalities from each city, Cohen laughed off the idea.
“The shows are still doing really, really well,” Cohen said. “So when they really start petering out, we’ll just throw eight of them on an island.”