While the world appears to disintegrate around us, there's something increasingly calming about the presence of Anderson Cooper on CNN. The journalist, anchor and author asks the difficult questions while remaining on the most even of keels. Extreme views don't seem to shake him — the man is charisma and professionalism personified.
That said, his days are bathed in all of the misery that is the current social and political climate. He has to be informed about all news events going on everywhere in the country and, indeed, the world. How the hell does he remain positive, knowing all that he knows?
“I don't really know the answer to that question,” Cooper says. “I do love what I do and I like consuming information. But things are moving so fast now. It's no longer a 24-hour news cycle, it's now a 20-minute news cycle. There's just a constant flow of information and it can feel overwhelming.”
On Saturday, Dec. 1, Cooper will appear at Hollywood's Dolby Theatre with longtime friend and New Year's Eve co-host Andy Cohen, for an intimate evening of drinks and stories. For Cooper, the live events (dubbed AC2) make for a nice break as they're so removed from what he normally does.
“At the end of the show, we usually open things up to the audience to ask questions, and very rarely will we have anyone ask a political question,” he says. “I think people are sick of hearing about it and thinking about it all day long. It's all people talk about. People like to have a night off of just fun stories, having a few tequilas or vodkas, or whatever they may be having.”
Cooper and Cohen have been friends for about 25 years, after they were set up on a blind date that never actually happened. A phone conversation, Cooper says, revealed very quickly that the pair were not romantically compatible. But they've remained close ever since. When Cohen's second book was published, he asked Cooper to interview him onstage, in front of an audience, as a favor.
“We had so much and the audience seemed to enjoy it,” Cooper says. “My agent, weirdly enough, represented Bill O'Reilly at the time, and he and Dennis Miller used to do a tour together. So he said, 'You guys could take this on the road.' We looked at each other and thought that it sounded like a lot of fun. We tried it out in Boston, people came, and it's been three-plus years since.”
While the Kathy Griffin photo-shoot episode was unnecessarily distracting (Team Griffin over here), anybody watching Cooper and Cohen hosting CNN's New Year show can't deny the warmth that exists between the two — a natural chemistry derived from a real friendship. Cohen, of course, is famous for developing many reality TV shows, a world that could hardly be more different from that which Cooper inhabits.
“I watch a lot of television, but I now tend to watch more dramas, like scripted dramas as opposed to reality stuff,” Cooper says. “But I watch Andy's late-night show so I feel I get the CliffNotes version of it. It keeps me up to speed on what's going on in that world. Andy is now convinced that our worlds are completely enmeshed. He believes he's now qualified to moderate a presidential debate, given the state of politics today.”
Cooper and Cohen like to view these live shows as something intimate and unscripted — the vibe of going to a bar with them for a night, hanging out and swapping stories.
“It's all just Andy and I interviewing each other, talking with the audience, funny stories from our lives,” Cooper says. “It's basically a peep behind the curtain of pop culture and world events, and centrally an intimate night of conversation. There's not much online about it because we really encourage people to put down the tweet machine, enjoy the night and have a drink. There's a bar open during the show, and usually people have gone out for a liquid dinner beforehand. We just want people to be loose and have a fun night out.”
A loose, fun night out sounds just about perfect right now. That said, the recent midterm elections threw up some positive results, not least 100 women elected to Congress as the Democrats took the house, Colorado's Jared Polis becoming the first openly gay person elected governor, Sharice Davids going to Congress, etc.
“There's obviously enough that happened on Election Night that you can interpret it depending on what side of the political aisle you're on,” Cooper says. “There was enough there for Democrats to be proud of and excited by. The variety of candidates the Democrats fielded, the success of so many women getting elected. There had been so much buildup about this blue wave, and then afterward, was it a wave? Was it a ripple? But I think it's easy to get caught up in the adjectives of it. It was certainly a good night for Democrats in some locations' governor's races. Obviously in the Senate, it was a very good night for Republicans. Certainly, there's a wealth of candidates on the Democratic side, and in the future the demographics are moving in the direction that the Democrats would like them to move into.”
To finish, we ask Cooper for his early tip for presidential candidate on the 2020 Democratic card. There's so much buzz about the likes of Beto O'Rourke and Joe Kennedy — who better than Cooper to provide an early insight.
“I think there's going to be 20 Democrats who are dipping their toes in and visiting Iowa, New Hampshire,” he says. “I have no idea. At this point back in 2006, not a lot of people knew who Barack Obama was. I still think there's obviously names that we all know. [Bernie] Sanders is a possibility, obviously. [Joe] Biden seems to be a possibility still. There was a piece in the Wall Street Journal yesterday about [Hillary] Clinton even. I don't know. Beto O'Rourke has obviously gotten a lot of interest, and I think it remains to be seen.
“I still think there's that debate in the Democratic party — how does a Democrat win on a national level and not just in a primary. Is it a centrist Democrat, is it a progressive? What kind of a Democrat can win the White House? I think that's still very much an open debate.”
Anderson Cooper and Andy Cohen's AC2 takes place at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Dec. 1, at the Dolby Theatre.