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How Andrew Cuomo and Chris Cuomo's Sibling Rivalry Captured the Heart of America

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BCE is sweeping the nation.

Sorry, you don't know what BCE stands for? Around E! News, it's Big Cuomo Energy, as we've now come to think of New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo's press briefings as Coffee With a Cuomo and Chris Cuomo's CNN show Cuomo Prime Time as Cocktail with a Cuomo, with both serving as daily occurrences we look forward to as we continue to practice social distancing amid the coronavirus.

But the real magic comes when the Cuomo brothers come together, showing off their brotherly banter and playful sibling rivalry. And we're not the only ones, as America seems to be just as riveted by all things brother Cuomo in recent weeks.

And it's easy to see why, as Andrew, 62, and Chris, 49, have an easy comedic chemistry that most sitcoms spend years trying to finesse.

The recent obsession with the brothers, who are famously close, began in mid-March, when Andrew began making appearances on Chris' show to speak about how New York was handling the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Take for example when Chris, still filming Cuomo Prime Time from the studio, spoke to Andrew about his decision-making during this crisis, asking him to pick his best and worst."

After telling his brother it was "a lousy question by you," Andrew answered that his worst decision "is probably coming on your show, frankly."

Cuomo brothers, Chris Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo

E! Illustration

Chris was ready to serve it right back, using some technical difficulties to his comedic advantage, using it is a callback to a previous sibling argument about Andrew apparently not calling their mother as much has he does. 

"I'm hearing your finger nails scratch on something like you're nervous," the CNN anchor said. "I know you're busy, but there's always time to cut your fingernails and call your mom."

That appearance ended with a quick argument about who was better at basketball and proved just to be a warm-up for their unexpected daily comedy act. 

The following night, Chris was filming the show from his basement, which delighted Andrew, who joked, "Well, you're there a lot, right? Christina says she send you there a lot."

But Chris was ready for the attack, armed with the ultimate ammunition: their mother Matilda Cuomo's special sauce recipe. 

"She taught me how to make the sauce, something that is very coveted," he said. "She said, 'I can only teach he—not she, he—who will carry it on best.' She taught me how to make the sauce, she didn't teach anybody else." (We're sure their three sisters also have thoughts on this secret sauce.)

By that point, the brothers had already had a debate on live TV about who was their mother's favorite child. (Their father Mario Cuomo, who also served as the Governor of New York, passed away in 2015.)

"She said I was her favorite," Andrew had previously told Chris. "Good news is she said you're her second favorite—second favorite son."

And when Chris then thanked Andrew for coming on Cuomo Prime Time, the older bro responded, "Mom told me I had to." 

But it all comes back to the sauce, as it does for many Italian families. 

To rub salt in the wound (or add it to the sauce?), Chris claimed during their March 24 conversation their mother had called him the prior night and had cried when she learned Andrew wasn't with his brother but was in Albany "at the house with the big gates and attack dog," though Chris said he promised Matilda he would still make him some sauce.

"You've always been good at manipulation," Andrew simply responded, before volleying a pretty epic insult at his brother, who is the youngest of their five siblings. "You've always been the meatball of the family."

Their banter, the kind only two brothers can share no matter how old they are, often went viral, and in a way almost served as the peanut butter that masks the taste of medicine for your dog; the vital updates about the coronavirus were being made more palatable by Andrew and Chris' affectionate ribbing. Serious talking points about the pandemic were interrupted by jabs about Andrew's tired appearance or Chris' love for the gym. 

But then the virus hit home for the brothers on March 31. 

Chris took to Twitter to share the news that he had been diagnosed with COVID-19, writing, "I just found out that I am positive for coronavirus...I just hope I didn't give it to the kids and [my wife] Cristina. That would make me feel worse than this illness!"

And he vowed his show would go on, adding, "I am quarantined in my basement (which actually makes the rest of the family seem pleased!) I will do my shows from here. We will all beat this by being smart and tough and united!"

Cuomo brothers, Chris Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo

Jason Decrow/Invision/AP/Shutterstock

Naturally, the public was curious if Andrew would address his brother's diagnosis during his daily press briefing later that day. And he would go on to address it, highlighting it as a good lesson for people as Chris is "an essential worker, member of the press. So, he's been out there. If you go out there, the chance that you get infected is very high." 

Of course, he couldn't resist taking a tiny jab at his little brother, saying, "He's young, in good shape, strong—not as strong as he thinks—but he will be fine."

But Andrew then put the playful ribbing on hold for a moment to talk sincerely about Chris, explaining viewers only see "one dimension" of him on Cuomo Prime Time, even describing him as "funny as heck." (Just don't tell Chris he said that, OK?)

"In his job, he's combative, and he is argumentative, and he is pushing people," he explained. "But that's his job. That's not really who he is. He is really a sweet, beautiful guy, and he is my best friend." 

Cuomo Cuomo brothers, Chris Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo

Kevin Mazur/Getty Images

And it's that delicate balance of bitter and sweet that is providing a much-needed distraction for many during this stressful time, where turning on the news can feel like heading into battle. Seeing two brothers who have equal measures admiration and annoyance for each other is a welcome respite from the uncertainty, a small pocket of frivolity amid an otherwise pretty open sky of fear. 

It probably helps that their sibling dynamic is one many viewers with siblings of their own are likely familiar with. The older ones can relate to Andrew, dealing with their at-times nagging and persistent younger brother or sister who just won't take "No" for an answer.

The perfect example of this was when Chris would not stop asking Andrew if he's considered a presidential run. 

On the flip-side, the younger faction in a sibling relationship knows Chris' experience all too well; always being compared to your older sibling and feeling like you need to stand out on your own.

Take this jab Andrew delivered to Chris on March 23, "My little brother. Don't worry, there's hope for you. One day you can grow up to be like me."

Chris' response? "I've tried to be like you my whole life. Look where it got me."

While viewers were used to Andrew calling into Chris' show, the roles were reserved on April 2, when Chris joined Andrew's press briefing through a video feed.

Despite the change of venue, the Cuomo comedy act was still in action, beginning with Chris describing some of his symptoms, including hallucinations.

"You came to me in a dream, you had on a very interesting ballet outfit, and you were dancing in the dream, and you were waving a wand and saying, 'I wish I could wave my wand and make this go away,' and then you spun around and you danced away."

Like the rest of us, the governor could only laugh. "Well, that's a lot of metaphoric reality in that one," he then replied. "I thank you for sharing that with us."

Cuomo Cuomo brothers, Chris Cuomo, Andrew Cuomo

Instagram

They continued to banter throughout the conference, with Andrew setting the tone by saying, "I know that sometimes we joke. We're not going to do that today. Rule one is never hit a brother when he's down, and you're literally in the basement."

After talking about their love of fishing together and more jokes at each other's expense, both Andrew and Chris became sincere for a moment to express their mutual respect for one another.  

"I've always been proud of you, you know that," said Andrew. "But I've never been prouder of you than I am right now."

And at the end of the briefing, Chris joked that he didn't realize his brother was having daily press briefings and he'd make sure to tune in moving forward. 

"It's sort of like the way you have a show," Andrew retorted. "You have Cuomo Prime Time. I have Cuomo all the time."

We'd say that's actually not a bad title for a reality show about the Cuomo brothers, but we're already getting a live one almost daily and it seems to be the Internet's favorite sitcom. 

Watch NBC News Special Report: Coronavirus Pandemic Tuesdays at 10 p.m. ET/7 p.m. PT on NBC, MSNBC and NBC News NOW. For the latest updates on the coronavirus pandemic and for tips on how to prevent the spread of COVID-19, please visit The Center for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov.

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