Arsenio Hall (born February 12, 1956) is an American actor, comedian, and former talk show host. He is best known for hosting The Arsenio Hall Show.
Hall is also known for his appearance as Alan Thicke’s sidekick on the talk show, Thicke of the Night. He was the winning contestant on NBC’s reality show, Celebrity Apprentice 5, after defeating singer and American Idol runner-up Clay Aiken in the Celebrity Apprentice live finale.
Arsenio was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Fred and Anne Hall. His father is a Baptist minister. Hall performed as a magician when he was a child. He graduated from Warrensville Heights High School in Warrensville Heights, Ohio in 1973. After he graduated, he attended Ohio University, where he was on the speech team with Nancy Cartwright and Leon Harris. He then transferred to and graduated from Kent State University.
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 (a role for which he has on occasion noted his confusion with Monty Hall). Arsenio was the original voice of Winston Zeddemore in the cartoon The Real Ghostbusters from 1986â1987. 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. Subsequently renamed The Late Show, it featured several hosts including Ross Shafer, Suzanne Somers, Richard Belzer, and Robert Townsend before it was cancelled in 1988. Hall was also 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 on another network.
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 “Woof, Woof, Woof!,” while pumping their fists. The practice soon became such a ritual that by 1991 had become a “pop-culture stamp of approval”âone 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 Hall said that he would “kick Jay’s ass” in the ratings game.
Hall used his fame during this period to help fight worldwide prejudice against HIV and AIDS, after Magic Johnson contracted the disease; Hall and Johnson filmed a PSA about the disease that aired in the early 1990s.
Recent radio and television work
Since The Arsenio Hall Show ended, Hall has made many appearances on television (including a short-lived 1997 sitcom called Arsenio), starring in Martial Law with Sammo Hung from 1999â2000, and hosting the revival of Star Search in 2003â2004. On the latter program, he tried to popularize the catch phrase “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 is a guest co-host on Wednesday evenings on The Tim Conway Jr. Show on KLSX 97.1 FM radio. Hall also hosted MyNetworkTV’s comedic clip 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 season 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.
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 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’s new syndicated late-night talk show premieres in the Fall of 2013 on Tribune and CBS syndicated TV stations.