ABOVE PHOTO: The Arsenio Hall Band, from L to R, Rob “Fonksta” Bacon,” Alex Al, Arsenio Hall, Robin DiMaggio, Victoria Theodore, and Sean Holt.
(Photo Credit: Cliff Lipson/CBS Television Distribution)
If you ask different people where they first saw Arsenio Hall, you’d probably get a number of different answers. But, it was the success of his Emmy Award-winning late night talk show “The Arsenio Hall Show” that made Arsenio a household name. The versatile actor, comedian and producer first became involved in the arts at “The Cleveland Playhouse” and continued to hone his craft through his Kent State University years. Now Arsenio is back with an all new version of “The Arsenio Hall Show,’ which will debut Fall 2013 on stations across the country
In 1979, Hall moved from Ohio to Chicago, Illinois where he tried his hand at stand-up comedy and was discovered by Jazz singer Nancy Wilson. In the following few years Arsenio toured, opening for twenty major headliners including Patti LaBelle, Aretha Franklin, Tina Turner and Stevie Wonder. A short time later, Arsenio attempted to diversify his career by making numerous appearances on television shows such as “Solid Gold” and “The Tonight Show with Johnny Carson”…and doing his first film cameo in “Amazon Women on the Moon,” directed by John Landis.
In 1987, Arsenio was asked to replace Joan Rivers on the Fox Network series “The Late Show.” On the strength of his work as interim host, he was signed to a film and television deal with Paramount Pictures, which subsequently led to the opportunity to co-write and co-star in the hit (Paramount) comedy “Coming to America.”
On January 3, 1989, “The Arsenio Hall Show” made its debut. Virtually overnight, Arsenio changed the face of late night television by captivating young viewers across the country. During his successful five-year run as Executive Producer, Arsenio provided a forum for cutting edge comedy, politics and the television debut of such pop superstars as Mariah Carey, Snoop Doggy Dogg, Boyz II Men, and countless others. In 1994, Arsenio was again ready to grow and diversify. He resigned from the late night gabfest to pursue other personal and professional interests.
In 1998, Arsenio joined the cast of the CBS dramedy “Martial Law,” playing “Terrell Parker,” a streetwise L.A.P.D. detective, for two years. He followed this up with a two season stint as Host of the new “Star Search” (CBS). And then, taking on his most challenging task to date, he returned to stand-up comedy and toured for the first time in over a decade.
Arsenio was featured as the comical “Carl Cristall” in Exodus Films’ animated feature “Igor,” starring John Cusack, which was released in theaters nationwide in September, 2008, and on DVD in January, 2009. Arsenio returned to television in the fall of 2008, as host of the popular weekly series “World’s Funniest Moments,” a one-hour show capturing life’s most outrageous moments caught on tape, which premiered in October, 2008 on MyNetwork TV.
Arsenio appeared in a memorable cameo starring as “Tasty Freeze” in the highly touted feature comedy “Black Dynamite,” an homage to classic blaxploitation films, which opened in theaters nationwide October 16, 2009 (Sony/Apparition), was released on DVD in February, 2010, and debuted as a new animated series on Adult Swim in July, 2012.
In addition, Arsenio was featured in the HBO Sports Documentary “Magic & Bird: A Courtship of Rivals” which premiered in March, 2010, as well as the A&E two-hour documentary special “The Battle For Late-Night,” which premiered in April, 2010.
He was also featured in the NBA Entertainment documentary “The Announcement,” which premiered in March, 2012 on ESPN, where he shares his insight and experience surrounding the day of Thursday, November 7, 1991, when Earvin “Magic” Johnson made people stop and watch at the Forum in Inglewood, California, announcing he was HIV-positive and would be retiring from basketball immediately. The documentary gets to the core of Magic’s incredible personal journey and explores how he continues to prosper and thrive two decades later.
Arsenio was featured as a “Guest Mentor” on the OWN Network’s “Your OWN Show,” as well as appearing as guest host on the daily talk show “Access Hollywood LIVE!,” CNN’s “Piers Morgan Tonight” and “The View.”
On May 20, 2012, Arsenio was crowned the “Celebrity Apprentice” for Season 5 of Donald Trump’s hit reality show on NBC, where he competed for his charity, The Magic Johnson Foundation.
While the new Arsenio will bear only a passing resemblance to the production of the early ’90s, it will still feature some enduring Hall passions: music, sports and comedy. And it will still aim for the woof-woof party atmosphere that helped propel sax-playing candidate Bill Clinton toward the presidency.
Joking to the Television Critics Association last week that he’s “been away making turkey bacon,” Hall said the challenges are much bigger now than when he was a pop-culture tastemaker on his old show that ran from 1989-94.
Back then, there were fewer channels and Johnny Carson was the dominant late-night host of “The Tonight Show.”
“It’s a huge challenge this time to bring people to the television,” Hall said. “Your biggest fan doesn’t watch you every night. You hope to get a guy three nights to check you out, the other nights they’ll be catching someone else.”
Hall isn’t focused on going after fans of Jay Leno or Chelsea Handler, for example.
“I’m trying to be in the game,” he said. “I just got to be better than one guy that’s there.”
He offered few details on the format and style of the new “Arsenio Hall Show” other than the old theme song is coming back with a new bit of music that Hall wrote added to it.
Hall said no guests have yet been booked for the syndicated show debuting Sept. 9. More than 200 outlets have signed up to carry it.
Soon-to-be rivals Leno and Jimmy Kimmel have reached out to Hall. Leno offered the phone numbers of the best writers on his staff who were forced out during layoffs, while Kimmel wrote a check to support Hall’s charity when he won “Celebrity Apprentice” last year.
“Maybe they’re setting me up to knock me out,” he said, “but the bottom line is everybody is being real nice to me.”
“You can’t be around [Hall] and not feel like it’s a party,” says Maureen Fitzpatrick, CTD senior VP of programming and development. “He’s so upbeat and fun that it will be a party no matter what we do.”
Hall has no illusions about late night’s talent-packed, knives-drawn landscape. Though in a way, the challenge is as basic as they come. “You have to find an audience,” he says, “that wants to go to bed with you.”
Associated Press contributed to this story.