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Spotlight: Arsenio Hall
Arsenio Hall is best known for hosting The Arsenio Hall Show, a late-night talk show that ran from 1989 until 1994, and a revival of the same show from 2013 to 2014. Other television shows and films Hall has appeared in are Martial Law, Star Search (host), Coming to America (1988), and Harlem Nights (1989). Hall is also known for his appearance as Alan Thicke’s sidekick on the talk show Thicke of the Night, and in 2012, Hall won Celebrity Apprentice 5. Arsenio Hall will be headlining The April Fools Comedy Show on April 1st at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Tickets available here.
Arsenio was born in Cleveland, Ohio. Hall later moved to Chicago, and then Los Angeles, to pursue a career in comedy, making a couple of appearances on Soul Train. In 1984, he was the announcer/sidekick for Alan Thicke during the short-lived talk show Thicke of the Night. Arsenio was the original voice of Winston Zeddemore in the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters from 1986 to 1987. In 1988, he co-starred in the comedy film Coming to America with Eddie Murphy.
In 1986, the Fox network introduced The Late Show Starring Joan Rivers, created to directly challenge The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson. After a moderate start, ratings for the show sagged. Behind-the-scenes relations between Rivers and network executives at Fox quickly eroded, and Rivers left in 1987.The series was subsequently renamed The Late Show, and featured several hosts, including Ross Shafer, Suzanne Somers, Richard Belzer and Robert Townsend before it was cancelled in 1988. Arsenio Hall was chosen to host the show in the fall of 1987, and his stint proved to be immensely popular, developing a cult following which eventually led to Hall landing his own show in syndication.
From January 2, 1989 until May 27, 1994, he had a Paramount contract to host a nationwide syndicated late night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. The show became a breakout, late-night success, especially rating high among the coveted younger demographic and known for its audience’s distinctive alternative to applause: chanting “Roo, Roo, Roo!,” while pumping their fists. The practice soon became such a ritual that by 1991 had become a “pop culture stamp of approval” — one that Hall said had become “so popular it’s getting on people’s nerves.” The gesture made it into films of the time: the title character played by Julia Roberts did it in a polo scene in Pretty Woman (1990).
And characters played by Penny Marshall and Michael J. Fox did it in The Hard Way. In Disney’s Aladdin (1992), the Genie character voiced by Robin Williams performs the gesture while mimicking the physical appearance of Hall.
This popular gesture can also be found in the 1993 Mel Brooks’ comedy, Robin Hood: Men in Tights. It was also seen in the movie Passenger 57, in which an old woman confuses the character played by Wesley Snipes with Arsenio Hall. After saving the day, the passengers on the hijacked plane do the gesture toward the protagonist.
He also had a rivalry with Jay Leno, after the latter was named host of The Tonight Show, during which time Hall said that he would “kick Jay’s ass” in ratings. Leno later appeared on The Arsenio Hall in 2014
Hall used his fame during this period to help fight worldwide prejudice against HIV/AIDS, after Magic Johnson contracted the disease. Hall and Johnson filmed a PSA about the disease that aired in the early 1990s.
Other television and radio work
Between 1988 and 1991, Hall hosted the MTV Video Music Awards.
Over the years, he has appeared as a guest on numerous talk shows, in special features, as a voice actor, on game shows and other award shows. Since The Arsenio Hall Show ended, Hall had a leading role on television shows such as the short-lived sitcom Arsenio (1997) and Martial Law with Sammo Hung (1999–2000), as well as hosted the revival of Star Search (2003–2004). While hosting Star Search, he popularized the catchphrase “Hit me with the digits!”.
Hall appeared as himself in Chappelle’s Show in March 2004, when Chappelle was imagining “what Arsenio is doing right now” in a dinner scene. Hall has guest co-hosted Wednesday evenings on The Tim Conway Jr. Show on KLSX 97.1 FM radio. Hall also hosted MyNetworkTV’s comedic web video show The World’s Funniest Moments and TV One’s 100 Greatest Black Power Moves. Hall also appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher in May 2012, in a discussion commemorating the 1992 Los Angeles riots.
Hall was considered to be the host of the syndicated version of Deal or No Deal and filmed a pilot (there were six taped). However, by the time the syndicated series began on September 8, 2008, Howie Mandel was chosen as the host.
He also appeared regularly on The Jay Leno Show, and was a guest on Lopez Tonight. George Lopez credits Arsenio for being the reason he had a late night show; Lopez appeared on The Arsenio Hall Show more times than any other comedian. Lopez requested Hall be a co-host on Lopez Tonight (November 25, 2009) since he regarded Hall as his inspiration and the first “late night party show host”. Hall has filled-in as guest host for NBC’s Access Hollywood Live (2011) and CNN’s evening talk/interview program Piers Morgan Tonight in 2012.
In 2012, Hall was a contestant on the fifth edition of The Celebrity Apprentice, which began airing February 19, 2012. Hall represented his charity, the Magic Johnson Foundation, which is dedicated to advancing economic and social equality by engaging minorities in every aspect of their communities; increasing academic and innovative achievement; and raising HIV/AIDS awareness, treatment and prevention. While Hall clashed with Aubrey O’Day, he befriended a majority of the cast. On May 20, 2012, in the live season finale, Hall was chosen as the Celebrity Apprentice winner, being “hired” by billionaire real estate investor Donald Trump over the other celebrity finalist, singer Clay Aiken. For winning The Celebrity Apprentice, Hall won the $250,000 grand prize for his charity, in addition to any money he won for his charity for tasks he and his team won when he was a team leader on the show.
Arsenio Hall will be headlining The April Fools Comedy Show on April 1st at The Theater at Madison Square Garden. Tickets available here.