Changing the game does not begin to describe what Anderson Cooper has accomplished during his storied career. From telling the real news on Anderson Cooper 360 to interviewing some of the most important newsmakers of today’s world, Cooper has broken the mold in terms of what so many think “a reporter” should be.
Now, as he heads to the next stop on his AC2 tour with talk show host and friend Andy Cohen, Hornet caught up with the famed newscaster. In our Andersoon Cooper interview we discuss journalism today, his televised sit-down with Stormy Daniels and his legendary mother, Gloria Vanderbilt.
You’re currently on tour with Andy Cohen with your “AC2 — Deep Talk And Shallow Tales” tour. You and Andy Cohen are almost like a modern-day “Rowan and Martin” in some way. Why do you think it still works after all this time?
Oh yeah, I’ll take that, absolutely! You know, I think it works because we are truly genuine friends and we have really good chemistry. We are very different people, and in many ways we could not be more different. For example, Andy is extremely extroverted, while I am very introverted.
We both work regularly in live television, but in very different aspects of television — as much as Andy feels totally qualified to modify our political debates, because he feels that politics have become like a reality show! I just think there is a definite, unique chemistry between us.
Andy has said that he absolutely loves being a celebrity, while you’re notoriously private. Are there ever any cringeworthy moments when he may say something you’re not 100% comfortable with?
Listen, Andy is a shit-stirrer and always loves to stir the pot. That goes for us onstage or at a dinner table hanging around with friends. He always ‘goes there’ on Watch What Happens Live, and I can tell you, he goes there in real life as well. I know with him it comes from a good place, so I am happy to go wherever he pushes me.
Your New Year’s Eve Telecast on CNN got huge ratings and was a monumental cultural moment, with two out men hosting a New Year’s Eve celebration on a major network. You had to corral Andy several times, if I remember correctly.
Laughs] You know what it was, I think he was shocked at how absolutely cold it was! He was a little frozen and just bowled over by just how cold it actually was.
Was it hard for you to see people online tear into the telecast so viciously after you guys had such a successful night?
It doesn’t really matter to me. I enjoyed it, I had fun and I enjoy working with Andy. I enjoyed working with Kathy [Griffin] over the years as well. I hope to do it again.
You famously had a falling out with Kathy Griffin last year. She’s been very vocal about her issues with you and has spoken about them to a number of outlets. Is it hard as a serious journalist who has covered monumental news stories and who has hosted presidential debates to now become the actual story?
If you are on television in this day and age, people are interested in knowing every little thing about you. It’s obviously something I am used to now, but it’s definitely not something I particularly enjoy.
Actually, to hear someone that is on television complaining about being recognized or people being interested in them always strikes me as wildly inappropriate. I am sort of playing the world’s smallest violin, you know? It’s part of the job, and it definitely comes with the territory.
Your romantic relationship changed recently, and in work you talk to many people about their own relationships. Does that ever encourage you to be more open about your own romantic entanglements, knowing you’re asking people to be open about their personal lives?
Not really, no. I ask people questions, and people choose whether or not to answer them. I am not one to force people to answer questions. It’s my job to ask those questions, but I do definitely get why people would want to ask those questions of me as well.
Your interview with Stormy Daniels was captivating. Is there anything we didn’t see or anything you didn’t ask her that in hindsight you wish you had?
You know, we had a really long interview. Obviously for 60 Minutes we boiled it down to, I think, two 12-minute pieces. She gave me no limitations at all on the interview, and I was able to ask everything that I wanted to ask her. I think she was very forthright when she answered me.
With the press completely under siege right now, any advice for journalists?
Well, for one, I think as a journalist and in terms of interviewing, the most important thing to do is to listen to the person you are interviewing. Don’t worry too much about the questions you’ve prepared in advance, but let it be a real conversation. Listen to what the person you are interviewing is saying. It can be so easy to just focus on your own questions and not listen too much to what the other person is saying.
Usually what the person is saying takes the conversation in a direction that is so much more interesting than the one you may have anticipated. Journalism is under siege right now. It is important now — and always has been — to be accurate, to be fair and to just keep your head down and do your job.
Do you think it will be possible for the press to have its reputation and respect restored under a new administration?
You know, I don’t know. It is impossible to really predict it. While journalism is under siege, more people really see the need for accurate reporting than have in a long time. I cannot tell you how many people come up to me now every day and say, “I believe in what you are doing, keep going.” They are not saying that to me in particular. They’re saying it to me as a representative of CNN or of journalism in general.
You’re touring the country with Andy Cohen and interviewing world leaders and covering global events, but there has to be something about you we don’t know. I mean, are you a huge Cardi B fan or something?
Laughs] I used to be really big on reality shows, but now I am really big on dramas. I am a big Netflix binger. I have gone through pretty much every binge-worthy program out there, and I have moved onto really obscure European series. I cannot tell you how many weird Norwegian noir thrillers I have watched.
That and I am a really weird eater. I have the palate of a 5-year-old, and I order off the kids menu. It’s definitely a little weird in hotel rooms. Spaghetti bolognese, peanut butter and jelly sandwiches — yeah, totally. I also order the same food every day. I like the consistency of that, because it’s one less decision I have to make.
Your documentary Nothing Left Unsaid and book The Rainbow Comes and Goes with your mother Gloria Vanderbilt was wonderful. What is one invaluable lesson you take from your mother that you’re able to use on a daily basis?
Um … wear vertical stripes, because they are slimming? [Laughs] I don’t know, in doing the film and writing the book with my mother I realized how similar we really are. Growing up, I don’t think I realized it. I didn’t realize we both have this similar drive and determination which oftentimes leads to a real lack of contentment. I always actually wondered where that came from in me as well; I now realize that a lot of it is certainly from watching my mother. I don’t know if it’s genetic, but I have this relentless drive to push forward.
Anderson Cooper 360 airs weekdays on CNN. Head here for more info on the AC2 tour with Andy Cohen.