Most Talkative: Stories from the Front Lines of Pop Culture
“Overall this memoir is a hoot, a loop-de-loop tale of life among the Housewives . . . the story of someone who has surely had Glinda the Good Witch looking out for his every move.”
The best part of reading Most Talkative, the new memoir from television-executive-turned-unlikely-chat-show-host Andy Cohen, is that the reader feels as if he or she were seated at the right hand of Andy at some swank Manhattan dinner party hosted, say, by the mother of Andy’s good friend Anderson Cooper, Gloria Vanderbilt, or Regis Philbin, ex-television co-host of Andy’s very good friend Kelly Ripa.
The worst part is that, while pushing through the sometimes lengthy anecdotes in this theatrical monologue on the printed page, the reader wishes nothing more than to have the dinner table opportunity to turn to the guest seated on his other side—if only to be spared having to hear the tale of one more Susan Lucci encounter.
The best thing about Andy Cohen himself is that he is the most unlikely of celebrities (or “Bravolebrities” as they are called on Andy’s Bravo network), and that he knows it. Indeed, he revels in it. He basks in the fact that a kid from St. Louis who spent his entire youth in front of the TV set (most often while “All My Children” beamed into his brain direct from Pine Valley) now not only is the man responsible for all those “Real Housewives,” but also now a pop culture figure in his own right, right up there with some others he has created, such as Bethenny Frankel and Nene Leakes.
This self knowledge he exhibits is perhaps his own best creation (something he shares with such TV greats as Merv Griffin and Charo, both of whom share with Cohen the tendency to smirk when realizing that yet again the camera was indeed pointed at them) and only enhances Andy Cohen’s charm, tending to send him into fits of contorted facial expressions as he makes basket weave motions with his arms and legs.
All of this can make for remarkably entertaining television—especially when Andy and his guests on his Bravo weeknight show “Watch What Happens Live” sit and talk, cocktails in hand freshly delivered by the on-set bartender, as all concerned prepare themselves for bedtime.
The worst thing about Andy Cohen himself is that same trait: the one that makes him always and eternally self-aware. The one that allows us to know that he must be a rabid reader as well as television viewer, as he seems to have taken Christopher Isherwood’s title concept I Am a Camera very, very seriously. And Andy Cohen is most certainly his own worst camera: the inner Andy is always mugging, mugging in the direction of the unblinking red eye.
Not that he his not unaware of his tendency to over-share.
As he relates in Most Talkative:
“Soon I got another mini-can of Whoopass shaken up and opened in my face. It happened a few days later, when a Morning News producer pulled me into the conference room for a ‘little talk.’ At first, I was excited. Little talks are my favorite! And this one started out like gangbusters with him saying I was bright, and aggressive, in a good way, and well liked. He said I had a lot of potential, and that I reminded him a lot of himself, which on one hand was really cool, because he was only twenty-four and already a producer, but on the other hand was puzzling, since he was Asian and a little chubby. Did he mean that he thought I acted like him or looked like him? Did he see himself looking like me? By this point, my ponytail was in full effect and I was working a coordinated suspender/tie combo almost every day. I did not see a physical connection between us.
“When my wandering mind stumbled back on track, he was telling me that I could really go far this summer and make a big impression, but . . . And are compliments followed by ‘buts’ ever good? No. He said that I was a bit ‘rough around the edges’ and needed to work on some things. He said there were important people in the newsroom and that I needed to ‘tone it down.’
“‘Do I need to talk softer?’”
It is to be assumed that, at that point, the chubby Asian producer likely put his head on his desk. Just as the dinner companion seated at Andy’s right hand wishes to do by the time he has been had yet another “Andy-ism” explained to him:
“A few years later, weeks before we began shooting season three of RHNYC [“Real Housewives of New York City” for the uninitiated], I went with a friend to finally check out Bridgehampton Polo for myself and stepped into a steaming pile with [Real Housewife] Jill Zarin.
“‘I am so fucking mad at Bethenny [Frankel—another Housewife]. You have no idea how horrible she’s been to me. I am letting it all hang out this season. It’s not gonna be pretty, Andy.’
“You know I’d be lying if I said to I don’t love a good brouhaha, but I also knew that viewers liked seeing these two together. How would a ruptured relationship play on the show? Without trying to control the situation, I gently suggested to Jill that maybe they could work it out before the season started. To my utter chagrin, that failed to happen. All during filming I heard reports from the field: an awkward encounter at a fashion show, Jill playing [Countess] LuAnn an old nasty voicemail from Bethenny, phones being slammed down—everything but reconciliation. ‘No!’ I thought. ‘These women are ruining everything. For us and for themselves!’ I had a terrible feeling that the crack in this beloved friendship wouldn’t resonate with our audience, and that it would spell the end of the show and doom the spinoff we were planning with Bethenny.
“It turned out viewers were enthralled, and that fractious third season did better than the previous two. There was something weirdly relatable—or maybe cautionary—about two good friends calling it quits, possibly forever. And watching the other women play two ends against the middle and scurry back and forth across enemy lines was simultaneously painful and entertaining. (It was enterpaining!)”
That’s a long way to go, Andy, to end up “enterpained.”
Which is not to say that Most Talkative is itself enterpaining. Let us not limit ourselves with this single concept. It’s also very literwary. And highly articugrating to boot.
Overall this memoir is a hoot, a loop-de-loop tale of life among the Housewives . . . the story of someone who has surely had Glinda the Good Witch looking out for his every move. Further, it is the rare book that this reader suspects would be a gem of an audio book, in that Andy reading Andy would likely be a beast unleashed. Andy taking on Andy, the role of a lifetime . . .
It is a virtuoso one-man show of a thing, Most Talkative is. With Susan Lucci, Diana Ross, Oprah Winfrey, Kelly Ripa, the White House security guards, Julie Chen, Ross Perot, Joan Collins, (indirectly) Timothy McVeigh, Dan Rather, the St. Louis Cardinals, and the B-52s—all in supporting roles.
And Cohen the author, when writing about Cohen the man, manages, in turns, to be genuinely funny, charming, insightful, infuriating, antic, off-kilter, on-target, exhausting, and vaguely obnoxious, all of it coming at you at once—all wrapped up in a great big sticky ball of Andy Andy Andy.