The Weirder the Pair, The Better!
WWHL's Talent Booker explains how we get our fantastic guests
Ya know how people always talk about the celebrities they would have at their dream dinner party? Well, my job is to basically be the party planner for those fantasy dinners. I am what is called the "Booker" for ‘Watch What Happens: Live’, which means that I arrange for all of the guests to be in the Clubhouse each night to play whatever crazy sounding game we throw at them. And as you would with any party, the whole process begins with figuring out who you would really LIKE to hang out with, and more importantly (because we love nothing more than an odd duo), my job involves figuring out the best possible combination of people to have on the show together. You might watch our show and think that the staff went temporarily insane when we decided to have Lil Kim on with MSNBC’s Willie Geist, but believe it or not, the bizarre pairings on our show are something that we give a LOT of thought to! The rationale generally goes one of two ways…we either like to have people on who are real-life friends because we know a lot of the fun will come from watching them hang together like they would on a typical Thursday night, or we go the complete opposite direction and strive to have 2 people together who are so completely different from one another that you can hardly believe they are sitting in the same room, let alone spoon feeding each other while blindfolded (one of my favorite games, by the way). Like figuring out the seating at a party, good chemistry between seatmates is imperative.
Andy and I are on constant email with one another discussing who the perfect pairing for a given night would be, and at least once a day we’ll debate whether having a certain duo on would be “good weird” or “bad weird”…because there is definitely a difference. It’s really impossible to predict how Cee-Lo and Big Ang from Mob Wives are going to click, but we usually get a gut feeling when the puzzle comes together in just the right way, and there is truly nothing more rewarding than watching 2 people who were complete strangers beforehand enter our crazy little clubhouse and suddenly become so perfect together that you will forever associate one with the other. Of course, there have been a few times when the combos have fallen a little flat or have been “bad weird” (and no, I will never reveal which people I mean), but I like to think that the majority of our gut feelings have led to some really great TV.
That’s not to say that we can just decide who we want to have on the show and they suddenly appear…though that would be nice! There is actually a lot of back and forth that goes on with the publicists for each of the guests. When a celebrity has a movie, TV show, wig line, etc. to promote, their publicists are the ones who generally decide when and where they should go to discuss this new project. Thankfully, as the WWHL seasons have progressed, a lot of celebrities (and their hard-working publicists) have become big fans of our show, and many now actually ask to be put through the wringer of Plead the Fifth! Before we can confirm someone for a certain date though, there is an insane amount of puzzle solving that goes into juggling each of the celebrities packed schedules in order to have the two people you really want on together both here at the same time. My blackberry is truly attached to me 24/7, but it is so worth it when everything falls into place! One of the great things about WWHL being a live show is that we’re able to read the viewer tweets in real time while we’re taping, and there are no words to describe how happy we get when we see people reacting so positively to what we’ve put together. Working in live TV has the kind of immediate gratification for your hard work that you can’t necessarily find in other careers, and it can be really fulfilling to watch it all play out.
We have wanted the vibe of WWHL to be a fun, laid back and comfortable place where viewers and guests can all feel like they’ve just stopped by a cocktail party at Andy’s house, and we try to really set that tone from the moment the guests arrive at our studio. The only real question we ask our guests ahead of time is what they would like to drink - we take our cocktails really seriously around here!! I work with an incredible Talent Team, Tristan & Chelsea, and between the 3 of us, the moments between 10-11pm are all about making sure that our guests are happy and relaxed and ready to have a great time. Andy will stop by to say hello, but most of the time you can usually find the guests having some drinks with their friends while watching a Housewives episode in the greenroom. There’s always a fun buzz in the air in the celeb dressing rooms ramping up to the live show. Its like when you’re getting ready with a friend before you go out for a big night…a lot of anticipation and excitement mixed together. Once we’re getting close to 11pm, we’ll walk the guests into the Bravo Clubhouse, which is, like almost everything else you see on TV, MUCH smaller than you realize. It’s always fun to see a celebrities reaction when they walk in….they usually say it's like they’ve suddenly stepped into Andy’s living room, which they basically have! And then the real fun the starts…the dream dinner party gets underway.
But that buzz of excitement before we start taping is nothing compared to the giddiness in the air after a great show ends. Although it's usually close to midnight by the time we’ve finished shooting our Aftershow for Bravotv.com, everyone is so amped up with adrenaline that it would be impossible to go straight home and get some (usually much needed) sleep. Many nights there is a combination of our staff, the guests and their friends all hanging out for hours after the show has ended. An after party following a great night that you just don’t want to end. The funny thing is, we all know we’ll be back at work to do it all over again in just a few short hours, but that never takes away from the fun. We all feel really lucky to be a part of this crazy little show.