One never knows where a conversation with Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen might lead.
Cohen (the Emmy Award-winning host of Bravo’s late-night interactive talk show “Watch What Happens: Live” and “The Real Housewives” executive producer) might talk affectionately about Cooper’s giggle. Cooper (the Emmy Award-winning CNN anchor and correspondent for CBS’s “60 Minutes”) might make a joke about them starring in an ice-skating show together.
The chemistry between the two old friends, the freewheeling banter, the “where-will-they-go-with-this-next” feel of their interactions — that’s exactly the appeal of the show the duo is bringing to Charlotte’s Belk Theater on Friday, June 15.
“AC2: An Intimate Evening With Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen — Deep Talk and Shallow Tales” is an unscripted, uncensored night of conversation that features the journalist and the late-night talk show host interviewing each other about pop culture and world events and taking questions from the audience. They’ve presented the act in select cities around the country for the past three years.
Our recent phone conversation with the two ACs featured an ostentatious entrance by Cohen and — thanks to a breaking news story — a hasty exit by Cooper. In between? Lots of banter that should give you a pretty good idea of what their show here will be like.
Q. How’s your day going?
Cooper: It’s going OK. I just flew back to New York. I was down in Virginia doing this town hall last night but just got —
Cohen: (Joins the call.) Hi!
Cooper: Andy has arrived.
Cohen: The money has arrived!
Cooper: (Chuckles.) Is that how you’re referring to yourself now?
Cohen: Yeah, the money, that’s how most people refer to me.
Q. Well, to start with, could you just give me the elevator pitch for the show?
Cooper: I mean, so many people always say to us that they’d like to go out for a drink with us, and that’s really what the night is like: It’s hanging out with us having some drinks and just telling funny stories. ... I think for both of us, it’s really not even work. We just love doing it, and it’s so much fun, and the audiences seem to have a great time. There’s really nothing like the energy of standing in front of 2,500 people or however many people it is, making people laugh and telling stories and interacting with people.
Cohen: Absolutely. We love it. It’s a great night out. I think people are often very surprised how funny Anderson is. It’s almost like I’m the straight man on stage and he’s the humor. He really comes alive and you see a different side of him.
Cooper: Andy always says it’s the best version of me, which is probably true.
Q. Is he funnier than you, Andy? Or as funny?
Cohen: Umm ... yeah, he is.
Cooper: I think it’s ‘cause people don’t really expect me to be funny, ‘cause they don’t really see that obviously on the news. They expect it from Andy, so it’s one of the surprises of the night, I think, for people. One of many.
Q. So I understand you guys only do 10 or 15 dates a year. How did you decide Charlotte would be one of them this time?
Cohen: It’s actually been on our list from the beginning. But it’s hard, because of both of our schedules.
Cooper: Yeah, Andy doesn’t like to work in the summer, so we usually take July-August off. We have Charlotte and Orlando, and I think those are our last until the fall.
Cohen: Oh, he’s just merciless about the fact that I don’t want to do this tour over July and August. I mean —
Cooper: I like traveling with Andy. So, you know, it —
Cohen: I do too, I’d just rather travel with you for leisure during July and August.
Q. I know you two have told the story of how you met probably about — I don’t know, at this point, how many times do you think you’ve told it?
Cohen: A lot. (Chuckles.)
Q. So it’s probably perfect by now, right?
Cooper: Yeah, I mean, I assume you would like to hear the story?
Cooper: Basically, we have mutual friends, and because we both worked in news at the time, and we were both kind of starting out in news, they kept saying, ‘Oh, we should get you together, we should get you together.’ And so finally we had a phone call to set it up, and I just knew within less than a minute that I was never gonna go on a date with Andy Cohen.
Cohen: OK, OK. Alright.
Cooper: (Chuckles.) Andy hates this part. But yeah, he was just very enthusiastic, and ... I’m a little introverted, so it just came on a little heavy. And he violated my cardinal rule asking me about my mom, within the first minute. (Cooper’s mother is heiress Gloria Vanderbilt.) That’s a red flag. I mean, usually if it’s like 10 minutes in, OK, I can see that. But a minute in? Seemed a little early. He just seemed to be chomping at the bit.
Q. If he hadn’t brought up your mom at all, would there have been a date, or were there other things going on there, too?
Cooper: I think there probably would have been a date. I mean, I could have dealt with the enthusiasm. You know, I would have said, ‘Oh well, maybe he just —’
Cohen: God forbid you go on a date with someone who’s enthusiastic! (Gasps.)
Cooper: (Laughs.) So yeah, there probably would have been a date if not for that. But it worked out all for the best.
Q. When was the next time your paths crossed, and how did that conversation go?
Cohen: We kept running into each other, and we have a lot of mutual friends, and then we have some mutual friends who travel together, so we wound up going on some trips together. That’s where we really got to know each other well, over the years. When you travel with someone, that’s kind of the best way to really get to know someone intimately.
Q. Anderson, were you quick to give Andy a second chance?
Cooper: I mean, not a romantic second chance. But certainly when we started traveling together, I saw how genuine he is and how funny he is. Andy is just as you see on TV: He’s the life of the party, and he makes a room come alive when he enters the room. He’s just got this infectious energy that you want to be around. ... He’s also a very good friend. He’s very loyal and gives great advice. Then as he started moving from behind the scenes to actually being on camera ... it was nice to know somebody else who works in live television. And though we work in different subject matter — although it’s become, as Andy will tell you, increasingly similar — it’s just nice to have somebody else who’s going through the same pressures or the same experiences.
Q. And Andy, what would you say drew you into the friendship?
Cohen: Oh, he’s a really interesting guy. He’s fun to talk to. He knows a teeny bit about a lot.
Cooper: What did he say? (Chuckles.)
Cohen: I’m just kidding. No, he’s one of the most interesting people I know. And I love making him laugh. He’s a fun person, he’s got a great giggle, and there are great rewards when you make him laugh, so I enjoy trying to do that.
Q: Is it hard for you to make him laugh?
Cohen: Uh, no, he gets pretty giggly around me.
Cooper: I mean, in general I’m pretty reserved, but yeah, Andy definitely brings something out. I think we have a really interesting chemistry.
Q. So now that you guys are becoming known as a duo — you’ve done well on this tour, you’ve been to dozens of cities at this point, you co-hosted New Year’s Eve for CNN — what other things could you guys see yourselves doing together in the entertainment realm?
Cooper: Well, we’re working on an ice show. Like an Ice Capades kind of show.
Cooper: No, I’m kidding. We’re not seriously doing that.
Cohen: I don’t know, I feel like we’ve pushed it as far as we can. I mean, Anderson is a serious journalist and I am a serious muckraker, so I think the intersection of New Year’s Eve and this stage show is kind of the limit.
Cooper: And Andy’s got a ton of stuff going on. I am just a small part of his enormous empire.
Q. You both have a ton of stuff going on — busy lives and schedules. So when you’re not off traveling to a show together, or on vacation together, how do you two stay connected? I mean, do you text each other every day or talk on the phone regularly?
Cohen: Yeah, we text each other a lot, we talk on the phone a lot, we see each other at the gym, we’re in pretty good contact.
Cooper: Yes, I’ve already seen Andy once today at the gym, and we’ve texted probably three or four times already this morning.
Q. At the gym. So do you do the same workouts?
Cohen: Mine’s a little more intense, I think.
Cooper: (Laughs.) I knew he was gonna say that. I don’t know that that is actually true. I think Andy spends a lot of time talking to his trainer. He seems to do Instagram stories a lot while he’s working out. So I’m not sure how intense it actually is.
Q. Going back to the show itself, has the structure of it changed much over the course of the three years?
Cooper: We’re always adding and taking out stuff depending on what’s going on in our lives. There are certain stories that people really like and we know the audience really responds to, but we try to keep it to stuff that people haven’t heard from us being on TV, or we show some videos that we don’t show on TV. We want it to be really unique things. And it’s nice — if you go online to try to find out about what’s in the show, you won’t hear very many of the details. Audiences have been really great about just coming and having it be this intimate evening without being on the Twitter machine and communicating what we’re doing.
Q. And how much room is there for spontaneity during the show?
Cohen: Oh, a lot. ... We also open it up for questions at the end of every show, so in every city, the personality is different, the tone is different —
Cooper: Hey, you know what? I’m sorry, I’m getting beeped from my office (about a major breaking news story). I gotta jump off.
Q. No worries. I totally understand.
Cohen: Bye, Anderson.
Cooper: Alright — thanks, guys. Bye. (Hangs up.)
Cohen: There you go. That’s what he does. He always has to leave. ... Anyway, so like I was saying, we do about 20 minutes at the end where people can ask us anything.
Q. And what’s the most out-of-left-field question you’ve gotten from an audience member?
Cohen: Oh my gosh, there’s almost nothing we haven’t been asked, to tell you the truth. I mean, they ask very personal questions. I’ll answer pretty much anything. Anderson kind of sometimes punts to me. I mean, at his core, he’s a journalist. He can be very silly, but sometimes he needs to keep it together.
‘AC2: An Intimate Evening With Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen — Deep Talk and Shallow Tales’
When: 8 p.m. Friday, June 15.
Where: Belk Theater, 130 N. Tryon St.
Details: 704-372-1000; www.blumenthalarts.org.