Inside Andy Cohen’s ‘WWHL’: A behind-the-scenes look at Bravo’s exclusive Clubhouse

The first rule of the Clubhouse is: You’re not invited to the Clubhouse. The second rule of the Clubhouse is: No, really, you’re not invited.

If you’re a Bravo fan, you know exactly what I mean. The Clubhouse is the intimate set where Andy Cohen hosts Bravo’s stalwart late-night program Watch What Happens Live, and it’s nearly impossible to get in as an audience member. You can’t buy tickets, enter a lottery, or wait in line all day. You have to beg and hope or know someone. It might be New York City’s most exclusive ticket and the hottest commodity in the Bravoverse, a place where beef among Bravolebrities is constantly born, creating real-time online gossip.

Despite the difficulty, I’m here to tell you what it’s like to attend — twice.

The good folks at Bravo allowed me and my wife — a Bravo superfan who got me hooked on the network’s offerings years ago — to attend two shows after I wrote about the network’s boom in popularity in 2023.

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The first thing you need to do to enter the Clubhouse, should you be so lucky, isn’t very fun. You fill out some forms way ahead of time, agreeing to, I assume, some boilerplate rules that, frankly, I didn’t bother to read. I was going, no matter the conditions. Then there are more emails about what to expect and wear: “Dress as if you’re getting cocktails with Bravolebrities!” On the day of, you’re in your greatest shirt, in line with roughly 19 other audience members outside a nondescript office building in Lower Manhattan.

The show is a well-oiled machine, even if it is known for creating messy online drama. WWHL is celebrating its 15th anniversary this summer, and you can tell they know exactly how to churn these episodes out. Before we get into the nitty-gritty details, here are the basics of attending the show IRL:

  • You queue outside the office building precisely one hour before filming, where you’re counted, checked in, and handed two drink tickets.

  • Alongside the rest of the guests, you’re led up an elevator to the sixth floor, where you hear loud, fun music as you get close.

  • There’s a small lobby with a bar (hence the drink tickets), backdrops for photos (with cutouts of Cohen and the WWHL desk), and a few places to sit and mingle.

  • Shortly before filming, the audience lines up in a specific order corresponding to where you’ll sit in the Clubhouse.

  • Once seated, there’s a Q&A with Andy before the show’s guests arrive and filming begins.

  • You watch the show! It takes about as long as the actual airtime. You’re encouraged to whoop, yell, react, and participate when appropriate.

  • After the show, you’re back outside the office building, watching the stars get chauffeured out in black cars.

Now, the million-dollar question for Bravo fans everywhere: What’s the experience like? TL;DR: It’s as fun as you’d imagine and even more intimate than you’d think. The episodes we saw featured, respectively, Lindsay Hubbard and Gabby Prescod from Bravo’s Summer House, then actor Joel Kim Booster and Real Housewives of New Jersey legend Teresa Giudice. As an audience member, you’re legitimately part of the show. How could you not be? We sat close enough to smell Tre’s perfume. (It smelled nice.)

teresa giudice and joel kim booster in the clubhouse

Teresa Giudice and Joel Kim Booster, from our seats in the Clubhouse.
Credit: Mashable / Tim Marcin

Let’s get into the details.

The pre-show

Let me be clear: There is no having a bad time at a WWHL taping for a fan. It’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience since you can’t purchase the ticket. But I’ve got to say, our taping with Giudice was far more fun because the fans were so excited. People had began cheering as they stood in line outside the building. Folks danced in the elevator as the music waned from the sixth floor. A pregnant woman negotiated with her friends to dole out her drink tickets — everyone cackled. Even the bartender said, “Oh, it’s a great crowd.”

Through some unlucky break, the Summer House crowd was a bit more muted. It seemed a few men were dragged along who maybe didn’t get how big a deal it was to attend.

That’s the thing: Because you can’t buy tickets, you can get an interesting mix of attendees. Sometimes tickets go up at charity auctions — I expect a few disinterested finance bros got their partner’s tickets that way. Then there are friends of folks who work on the show, friends of guests, and superfans who pulled strings. And then, twice, there was me and my wife, Analise. It’s hard to describe how excited we were.

the wwhl drink menu

The WWHL drink menu.
Credit: Mashable / Tim Maricn

couple standing in front of faux wwhl desk

Right before we entered the Clubhouse.
Credit: Mashable / Tim Marcin

The first go-round, we were almost worried about it. We fretted over what to wear for about a week. We arrived so early. I threw back my free drinks before taping, afraid I’d spill live on air. It was nerve-wracking but in a night-before-Christmas kind of way. By the second taping (pictured above), we felt more comfortable. And the crowd was much more open and fun. Everyone danced, joked, and had a good time, easing anxious energy and raising excitement.

During the pre-show happy hour and photo-op, you might even run into the guests on the show. The room isn’t huge, and the bathrooms are shared. One audience member from the Summer House-themed episode hustled out of the restroom and quickly told us she had an interaction with Hubbard in the women’s room. I’m using kinder words than the fan’s description of the event, but honestly, how freaking cool to have a famously (allegedly) rude Bravolebrity (allegedly) be rude to you! It’s every Bravo superfan’s dream! You’re in this tiny space with the stars of your favorite shows, watching it all go down as it happens.

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OK, wait, a little bit of housekeeping and a not-so-secret fact. Some Watch What Happens Live episodes are no longer aired live. The Summer House-themed episode, for instance, was taped two days ahead of time. It makes sense. Cohen is a media mogul with, I assume, a busy schedule. The show airs five days a week. There’s no way he’d be free every night.

So, anyway, what happens after those welcome drinks? You’re quickly shuttled into the Clubhouse, past hallways adorned with decorations like Jax Taylor’s infamous chunky white fisherman’s sweater. (You know the one.)

It’s hard to overstate how tiny the Clubhouse is. I’ve been on other TV sets, and it still felt quite condensed. Analise, who has been watching the show forever, couldn’t believe the on-set bar was barely a couple of feet from the guests. Camera angles can play tricks.

the bravo clubhouse before taping

Everyone prepping for to film WWHL.
Credit: Mashable / Tim Marcin

“The studio was so small, and the audience was so small, it was much more intimate than I expected,” Analise told me after the tapings.

The Andy Cohen Q&A

So by the time you have your pre-drinks, you take your seats, and you talk with Andy, an audience member will spend far more time doing other things than actually seeing the show get filmed. But the Q&A is a highly anticipated moment for fans because Andy is the Alpha and Omega of Bravo. Most audience members used the time to make little jokes or ask gossipy questions about the Bravoverse. There were some cringey questions — “Are you jealous my last name is Gay?” — but mostly, Cohen did a deft job joking with the audience while avoiding revealing anything too newsy. He’s there to warm you up, not give you Bravo tea for your TikTok account.

Still, as a journalist, I felt the need to ask him a question. I asked him which Bravolebrity made him the most nervous or required him to prep the hardest for an interview. He had to take a beat before sharing his answer: Erika Jayne during the 2021 RHOBH reunion. Honestly, I felt proud that I momentarily stumped one of the greatest interviewers out there — and that was a good thing because I was too nervous to follow up.

And Cohen is right there. He paces up and down in front of the audience; the front row sits in chairs, and the second row is raised on an extended bench. The guy has a presence. He controls the room like a celeb who’s had fans bombard them for the past 15 years. He’ll funnily answer audience questions and sternly warn them, “I’m filming a promo,” if someone tries to ask something while the camera rolls. He’ll ask, “Sir, are you here under duress?” to the uneasy finance bros. He’ll talk to the audience and producers in his earpiece simultaneously. As I said, the show is a well-oiled machine, and the audience is an integral part of that apparatus — but an annoying fan isn’t going to be the grain of sand that grinds the gears to a halt.

Cohen gets to his customary seat after the audience Q&A wraps up, and the show begins.

wwhl studio while filming

Cohen, Hubbard, and Prescod talking during a commercial.
Credit: Mashable / Tim Marcin

Taping the show

As an audience member, you are there to bring the vibes. You’re encouraged to have a good, well-lubricated time with your fellow seatmates. It’s hard to have a bad time, mainly because a producer named Rachael might be the greatest hype-woman I’ve ever seen. She’s got the whole spiel down flat, like a camp counselor on her tenth summer. She’s cheering. She’s getting you going. She’s letting you know when to scream and for how long. Now that I’ve gone behind the scenes, I cannot miss her yaaaaaaaaaaaaay in and out of every WWHL commercial break. (And now you can’t either.)

Otherwise, it’s sort of like watching the show at home. Even the taped broadcast followed a strict schedule. You can spot most of the graphics on screens overhead. Phones are allowed, but only during breaks. You’re encouraged to ohh and ahh and haha, but there’s absolutely no yelling out or answering the trivia questions. And if you absolutely must use the bathroom, there is no re-entry. You’re in and out in just about the exact time it takes to watch the show on television.

It might not surprise you to know that so much actually happens during Watch What Happens Live. We got to watch Hubbard skirt accountability on her much-publicized break-up and spot Andy giving her serious side-eye from a spitting distance away.

We got to see Teresa Giudice — in a skin-tight lavender jumpsuit — forcefully (and kind of unconvincingly) deny ever leaking things to bloggers. We watched as her husband Louie, who’s taller than you think, fed her a line about her enemies being “obsessed” from our little peanut gallery.

We got to see Giudice’s makeup people — seemingly glammed up for a night out at the club — rush out to touch her up during commercial breaks. We even saw Giudice take countless selfies, getting the angles just right, long after the cameras stopped rolling and as producers probably eagerly awaited the audience to exit.

Seeing these soon-to-be-viral moments up close was a unique experience.

It was also neat to be there live as people watching from home lost their minds over Giudice — her jumpsuit, her putdowns of her sister-in-law whose name she refused to utter, and, well, just Teresa just being Teresa. I cracked up at Giudice’s refusal to say her SIL’s name, and folks noticed it online. I even predicted to Analise she’d wear a latex jumpsuit before she took the stage. (Maybe I watch too much Bravo.) But it was cool to be there in person for what I’d usually tweet about from my couch.

So, how was it?

I hope by now it’s clear: Going to Watch What Happens Live is a blast for a Bravo fan. It’s like jumping into the TV screen momentarily and getting a bit part in the Bravoverse. If you listen closely, you can hear my laugh in the background and barely catch me in an audience shot. You get to see if the Bravolebrities live up to their reputation, which, in my experience, is a resounding yes.

Sure, you can buy a ticket to BravoCon, but thousands of people do that. WWHL is the golden ticket, the ever-so-exclusive treat. Our Bravo-watching friends were jealous, and for good reason. It’s far more intimate than any other studio show I’ve been to. Any schmo can see Stephen Colbert. Not many get to throw back a Fresquila alongside Andy Cohen.

I can’t tell you how to get in, but I can suggest you do it if you can. And if you do score an invite to Bravo’s chocolate factory, just make sure you prepare a good question for Andy.