When Saturday Night Live did a parody on Andy Cohen, comedian Taran Killan played the Bravo personality and exec as a vain, gregarious, slightly dippy chatterbox. While I don’t know Cohen personally, judging from Cohen’s public persona, Killan nailed it. And while the parody wasn’t particularly affectionate (imitation isn’t the sincerest form of flattery, just as Tina Fey, whose contempt for Sarah Palin practically screams during her impressions), it does jibe with the voice Cohen presents in his memoir Most Talkative: Stories from the Frontlines of Pop Culture. In the book, Cohen goes over his somewhat idyllic childhood before a successful career in TV – moving up the corporate ladder from lowly intern to head of programming, peaking with his current job with Bravo TV as executive vice president of development and talent. Cohen’s to blame (or credit, depending on your taste) for the success of the Real Housewives franchise that unfurled various permutations centered on geographic locations. While Bravo has other big hits, it’s the Real Housewives that is Cohen’s proverbial feather.
Tone and voice is everything, and Cohen’s is breathlessly chatty and gossipy, like a dishy coworker who just found out Jan from accounting is having an affair with Paul from HR. He recounts tales of running into famous people through his work with the “Ohmygodyou’llneverbelieveit” cadence of a high school student. More often than not, the writing is charming and usually pretty funny. Thankfully, this is a very unpretentious book, and Cohen has no designs on being Oscar Wilde.
But obviously it’s not a perfect book. One of blurbs on the softcover trumpets that one doesn’t need to be familiar with Bravo to enjoy the book – and that’s not always true – if you’re don’t watch any of the Real Housewives then two of the chapters will be a bit mysterious – kind of like coming to a party thrown by strangers. And so there’s a bit of an interest vacuum when going through the chapters – the impression one gets is that the housewives cast are tempestuous, short-tempered women who will use any opportunity to lash out and be loud.
Aside from his stable of Bravo celebrities, there are other characters that make appearances in Cohen’s book including Oprah Winfrey, Paula Zahn, the B-52’s, and Susan Lucci is a perennial presence, hovering over the tome like a guardian angel. Anecdotes about the soap opera diva book the memoir – the first story, a lovely, funny story about how Cohen as a Boston University journalism student interviews Lucci for a class project, and the last having a now-famous Cohen deal with Lucci as a powerful TV muckity muck. The Susan Lucci in Andy Cohen’s life is a nurturing and kind woman who encouraged the young budding television star.
And even though Cohen maintains a lighter-than-air tone throughout the book, he does recount his coming out experiences with disarming candor and feeling. It’s never an easy process, and though Cohen was lucky compared to a lot of gay guys, he deftly shares the anxiety he felt when disclosing his sexuality to his family and friends. He also writes of the angst he felt coming of age as a young gay man with commendable skill.
But in the end, people will gravitate toward Most Talkative because of Cohen’s TV work and his run ins with celebrity. For those salivating at the thought of gossip and behind-the-scenes dish of the Real Housewives, this book more than delivers. There are even passages that include transcriptions of aired exchanges between particularly aggrieved Housewives cast members. To enjoy Cohen’s book, you’ll have to manage your expectations – and that’s not damning him with faint praise: as those who caught him on his show Watch What Happens Live will affirm, Cohen has a gregarious and likable point of view – that comes through megaphone-loudly.
Click here to buy Andy Cohen’s Most Talkative: Stories from the Frontlines of Pop Culture on amazon.com.