Or, as Cohen memorably said in the live broadcast, the “end of a fecal year.”
The duo hosting CNN’s live coverage from New York City were the goofy, more-than-tipsy salve for the pandemic-crushed year, taking their shots in front of an empty Times Square made desolate by COVID-19 restrictions.
“It’s really weird being in Times Square right now,” Cohen said to begin the show, looking at what would have normally been a space crushed with party-goers.
Cohen noted the absence of revelers, usually packed with hundreds of thousands of people who wait for hours in advance of the ball drop. Without people, he joked that he would be able to spot which performers were lip-synching on Ryan Seacrest’s ABC New Year’s Eve special and that he would pass the news to CNN viewers.
The few allowed to gather at the iconic New York destination were a collection of first responders, medical workers and their families.
Although this New Year’s Eve party couldn’t have the usual party crowd, there was plenty of alcohol. Cohen announced that he had brought not one, but two bottles of tequila to be consumed on air.
Cooper said he was looking forward to saying “goodbye and good riddance” to 2020, like the rest of the world. That led to his first shot, which had him coughing on live TV. “It burns, it burns,” he said. It wasn’t the last cough.
Cooper’s drinking was the running gag of the night, which had him shifting from the composed evening news anchor to a tipsy, giggling correspondent. Cooper’s shaking and shivering after each potent shot were meme-worthy.
After 10 p.m. ET, the alcohol was showing its effects on Cooper, who said he doesn’t drink. When CBS late-night host Stephen Colbert, appearing remotely, called Cooper on a botched introduction, the anchor blamed it on the plentiful shots.
“To be honest Stephen, I thought I was going to introduce you and I wasn’t,” Cooper said. “I’ve had like four shots already, Stephen, and I don’t drink. So, at this point, I’m just reading the teleprompter.”
Cohen delighted in his friend’s altered state, throwing to commercial at one point with this message: “We’ll be right back! Anderson’s drunk!”
Even with the effects of alcohol, Cooper was more likely to be the one trying to rein in Cohen rather than vice versa. During a discussion about the usually packed Times Square, Cohen went on a tangent about people wearing diapers to deal with the unavailability of bathrooms and about his mother wanting he and Cooper to wear diapers for similar reasons. His colleague steered the conversation in another direction.
Later, when Cohen made a veiled sexual reference, it left his partner almost speechless. “Wow!” Cooper said. “Wow!”
The effects of the pandemic on New Year’s Eve seemed most obvious just before the ball dropped at midnight. After Andra Day performed a beautiful rendition of John Lennon’s “Imagine,” her “Happy New Year!” echoed in the surrounding stillness.
Cheers could barely be heard as the ball dropped, although those present offered a hearty countdown.
Cooper, who made good recoveries throughout the evening, noted how the almost-empty Times Square was fitting for the pandemic-dominated year, finding something positive as we head into 2021.
“It is unique and incredibly appropriate that it’s first responders and nurses and doctors and healthcare workers who are here and they’re here with their families,” he says. “It’s nice.”
The raucous show captured the attention of Twitter with some major fans.
“I am so happy watching@Andy and@andersoncooper. They are so good,” tweeted Mindy Kaling.
“I watched every episode of Tiger King, Breaking Bad, Better Caul Saul, The Crown, Queens Gambit – yet with two hours left, this is the finest moment of television in 2020,” tweeted actor Judge Reinhold.