Arsenio Hall Interview on ‘The Arsenio Hall Show’

Arsenio Hall Interview
Arsenio Hall (Photo by Cliff Lipson/CBS Entertainment)

Arsenio Hall told reporters at the 2013 Television Critics Association event in Beverly Hills that he’s definitely not coming back to TV with The Arsenio Hall Show for the money, he’s coming back because he loves it. And after a 20 year absence from talk shows, Hall isn’t focusing on his late night competition but instead is after a different audience: those who haven’t been watching late night television on a regular basis.

“There are so many people in America who don’t have a late night host, I just want to be that guy,” said Hall. “I don’t want to take anything from anybody, but I believe that everybody’s not watching. As a matter of fact, the people who love Kimmel often check it out the next day after they hear what it was. It’s a different society right now, and I think there’s a way that I can get in the mix without anybody getting hurt.”

Arsenio Hall Interview

Last time around you didn’t have to have any sort of web presence because it didn’t exist. Do you have to have a heavy web presence now to be successful?

Arsenio Hall: “Yeah, it’s very important. I’m really into social media. I love it, but it depends on who you are and where you’re from. Like I watch Fallon use it brilliantly with the yodel bit on the roof. People see that and you say, ‘I’m going to watch this guy,’ you know, when you find that on the Internet. ‘He’s doing this kind of stuff? I’m going to watch this guy.’ And it drives people from the computer to the television. Now, Mr. Leno, Mr. Letterman, more from my generation, not as into the digital aspect of it all. But at the same time, Leno’s No. 1. So as my mom used to say, there’s more than one way to skin a cat. They’re getting to the top and succeeding in their own unique ways. You do it your way. I’m probably a little more out of the Fallon mode because, whether I was on late night or not on late night, I love the digital world. You know, it’s very exciting. I can’t wait to get back into it.

Do you realize that I used to communicate…I remember one time Debbie Gibson sent me a fax and she had drawn a picture of herself holding a microphone. At the bottom it said, ‘Mr. Hall, would like to sing on your show.’ That was my text back then. I can ask America a question. I remember Barbra Streisand called me once because she had a Bill Clinton question. She can tweet me now. I mean, to get me on the phone, that’s how it was done back then. You call a guest. You call each other. You have a fax. It’s actually made it interesting and more unique. I’m excited to jump back into it. When you write a joke and you’re able to Google and find out what college Aaron Hernandez went to…there was a time when I was trying to find, ‘Hey, get me three People magazines to confirm this.’ We would go through a file cabinet. I can’t wait to write jokes and do comedy and prepare interviews in this digital world. It’s incredible.”

What are some of your favorite highlights from the previous incarnation of the show that you’re most proud of?

Arsenio Hall: “Gosh, I think I’m most proud of the night Magic Johnson made his announcement, mostly because he’s my friend and it was the most important night of his life and I kind of didn’t want to mess it up. I was emotionally a basket case and had told him I didn’t think we should do it. And he said, ‘No, dog, we gotta do it. We gotta do it there.’

Being a standup comic, I’m coming back because I love to make people laugh. If you’re looking for a message, you can go to Western Union, but I’m not really that guy. I’m about sending you to bed with a smile on your face. And those kind of daunting tasks, something like that with Magic, was rough. I’m also very proud of the Bill Clinton situation because of the way it’s lived on and the way it’s forced people to talk to Chelsea and talk to Leno, as well as on Sunday morning to a journalist. It kind of changed the way people campaign. So I’m proud of anything that left a small mark or changed something.”

Who is on your wish list for guests?

Arsenio Hall: “You know what? Whenever you give names, you insult people. Here’s the thing, my realistic wants…because I’ve done this before there’s a misconception sometimes that I can come back and have come kind of cachet like Johnny had…”

But you have relationships that exist with people.

Arsenio Hall: “Yeah, but it’s a business. Let’s say Magic Johnson’s a singer, Magic has to go where that song will get the most exposure. Our friendship is second place. And I understand that when I come back, sure I would love Beyonce there the first night, but I’ve been away and Fallon and Letterman and Leno – all these guys have developed a certain kind of cachet and I have to work. […] You can’t just walk in and say, ‘Well I put Mariah Carey on to sing Vision of Love and therefore she’s mine.’ You don’t get that. I’ve got to come back in and I’ve got to be good and work my way into it.”

You put your personal life ahead of your professional life at one point. Why was that the right choice for you?

Arsenio Hall: “I was a latchkey in Cleveland. My mother had never seen me play Little League baseball, and it’s not because she didn’t want to. She would go from one job to the next. I’d call her and tell her when I was in the house, so on and so forth. I didn’t have the life that my son has, and I know how important it is. My brother was in jail all of my life. I saw my brother twice. My brother was more comfortable in jail than out of jail. When he would come out of jail, he would do something on purpose to go back. So I understand fathering. I’m one of those people that believes that one of the most important things in this country, especially for minority men, is that aspect of fatherhood. I want to be there. I want to do it. And it’s not just because of commitment, I enjoy being a dad.”

What kind of a dad are you?

Arsenio Hall: “I’m a mean dad. [Laughing] Kind of an old-school dad. I was raised by a Baptist preacher from Georgia and I’m a little conservative.”