How Andy Cohen Makes Watch What Happens Live So Wild

Photo: Charles Sykes/Bravo
Watch What Happens Live with Andy Cohen is the gold standard for late night cable talk shows. Cohen has a unique ability to get his guests to say things they wouldn't on pre-taped shows. The perfect evidence is that Mariah Carey re-introduced her iconic "I don't know her" on Cohen's program.

So what's his secret? Twofold: His show is live, and he offers alcohol to his guests.

"We are the only live show in late night," Cohen said during his show's panel at the Television Critics Association winter previews Tuesday. "I've done pretty much all the other late night shows and they tape around 5 p.m. in the afternoon. They often say, 'We have cocktails here if you'd like them.' I never really drink at 5 p.m., but if you're coming to my house at 11 p.m., the first thing I'm going to do is say, 'What you're drinking?' The next thing I'm going to do is ply you for information about your social life. So it's pretty much an authentic experience of coming over to my house at 11 o'clock."

He allows that not everyone drinks, and that alcohol has different effects on different people. Of course, honesty begets honesty. So it can't hurt that Cohen has several confessional memoirs on the market.

And Cohen offered another secret to his show's success: Howard Stern.

"Howard Stern is my broadcasting role model, basically," Cohen said during his panel. "He has his Wack Pack and he also interviews big stars. The Housewives are kind of like our Wack Pack, which also allows us to interview other people."

While it's unclear if Bethenny Frankel appreciates being lumped into a group of people called things like Ass Napkin Ed or Fred the Elephant Boy, he could have a point. Having a group of people whose fame depends on their outré broadcast behavior means that any more straight-laced guests are facing subtle pressure to rise to their level. Toss a few drinks into the mix and you have a show.
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