Arsenio Hall

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Arsenio Hall
Hall in July 2012
Born (1956-02-12) February 12, 1956 (age 67)
Alma materKent State University
  • Comedian
  • actor
  • talk show host
Years active1981–present[1][2]
PartnerCheryl Bonacci (1987–2002)[3]

Arsenio Hall (born February 12, 1956) is an American comedian, actor and talk show host. He hosted the late-night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show,[4] from 1989 until 1994, and again from 2013 to 2014.

He has appeared in Martial Law, Coming to America (1988), Coming 2 America (2021), and Harlem Nights (1989). He was also the host of Star Search and appeared as Alan Thicke's sidekick on the talk show Thicke of the Night.

In 2012, he won NBC's reality-competition game show Celebrity Apprentice 5.[5]

Early years[edit]

Hall was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the son of Fred and Annie Hall. His father is a Baptist minister.[6] Hall performed as a magician when he was a child. He graduated from Warrensville Heights High School in Warrensville Heights, Ohio, in 1973, after briefly attending John F. Kennedy High School. He later attended Ohio University[7] and Kent State University.[8]


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).

He appeared on five weeks of episodes of the short-lived NBC game show Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour from 1983 to 1984. He was also the original voice of Winston Zeddemore in the animated series The Real Ghostbusters from 1986 to 1987. In 1988, he co-starred in the comedy film Coming to America with Eddie Murphy. During his career, he set up Arsenio Hall Communications in 1987, and then he had signed a two-year, multi-picture agreement with Paramount Pictures to develop films for an exclusive agreement.[9]

Talk shows[edit]

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. Relations between Rivers and network executives at Fox quickly eroded, and she left in 1987.[10] The series was subsequently renamed The Late Show, and featured several interim hosts, including Ross Shafer, Suzanne Somers, Shawn Thompson, Richard Belzer and Robert Townsend, before it was canceled in 1988. Hall was also chosen to host the show in the fall of 1987, and his stint proved immensely popular, leading to his being offered his own show in syndication.[11]

From January 2, 1989, to May 27, 1994, he had a Paramount contract to host a nationwide syndicated late-night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. It was a breakout success, rating especially high among the coveted younger demographic, and it was known for its audience's distinctive alternative to applause in chanting, "Woof, woof, woof!" (which originated in the Cleveland Browns' Dawg Pound in the east end zone) while pumping their fists. The practice soon became such a ritual that by 1991 it had become a "pop culture stamp of approval"—one that Hall said had become "so popular it's getting on people's nerves".[12] The gesture was so well known that it appeared in films such as Pretty Woman, Passenger 57, Aladdin, and The Hard Way.[12]

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 ratings.[13]

Supporter of gay rights and the fight against AIDS[edit]

Hall was a supporter of gay rights long before the movement had become overwhelmingly popular and supported in the mainstream, especially in black culture. In the early 1990s, this culminated in an episode of The Arsenio Hall Show where Hall was protested by gay rights activists, who criticized that he didn't have any gay guests on the show and that he would occasionally play gay characters; Hall was clearly upset by the accusation, saying he had famously out LGBT celebrities on his show, including Elton John, and had others on who preferred not to publicly advocate their sexual orientation.[14] (For reference, only 27% of Americans supported same-sex marriage in 1996, two to three years after Hall's public show of support, a figure which had exceeded two-thirds majority by 2018.[15]) After passionately stating his points, Hall received overwhelming woof chants of support from his audience. Additionally, Hall used his fame during this period to help fight worldwide prejudice against HIV/AIDS after Magic Johnson contracted the virus. Hall and Johnson filmed a public service announcement about the disease that aired in the early 1990s.[16]

Other television and radio work[edit]

Hall at the 1989 Emmy Awards

Between 1988 and 1991, Hall hosted the MTV Video Music Awards.[17] 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 leading roles on television shows such as the short-lived sitcom Arsenio (1997) and Martial Law with Sammo Hung (1998–2000), and 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 (convinced by Swedish comedy director Saman Khadiri) when Chappelle was imagining "what Arsenio is doing right now" in a dinner scene.[18] Hall has guest co-hosted Wednesday evenings on The Tim Conway Jr. Show on KLSX 97.1 FM radio.[19] He hosted MyNetworkTV's comedic web video show The World's Funniest Moments and TV One's 100 Greatest Black Power Moves.[20] He also appeared on Real Time with Bill Maher in May 2012, in a discussion commemorating the 1992 Los Angeles riots.[21]

Hall was considered the host of the syndicated version of Deal or No Deal and filmed a pilot (there were six taped).[22][23] However, by the time the syndicated series began on September 8, 2008, Howie Mandel was chosen as host.

Hall also appeared regularly on The Jay Leno Show, and was a guest on Lopez Tonight.[24] George Lopez credits Arsenio as 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".[25][26][27][28] 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.[29] 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.[30][31] On May 20, 2012, in the live season finale, he was chosen as the Celebrity Apprentice winner, being "hired" by 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 money for the tasks he and his team performed when he was a team leader.[32][33][34][35]

A revival of Hall's syndicated late-night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show, premiered September 9, 2013, on Tribune owned stations and other networks via CBS Television Distribution.[36] It was canceled after one season due to low ratings. The last taping aired May 30, 2014.[37]

Personal life[edit]

In 1997, after being out of the public eye for three years, Hall gave an interview to dispel rumors regarding what had driven him off stage. "I went on the Internet," he said, "and read I was in detox at Betty Ford. I got online under a fake name and typed in, 'I know Arsenio better than anyone else and he's not in detox, you idiots!'"[38]

Hall has one son, born in 1998.[39] Hall says he took time off to raise his son before resuming The Arsenio Hall Show in 2013.[40] Hall had an interest in returning to the business eventually, but his decision was not confirmed until he appeared on Lopez Tonight in 2009 (although he initially considered a weekend show because he did not want to compete in ratings against his friend George Lopez).[41]

On May 5, 2016, Hall filed a $5 million defamation lawsuit against Sinéad O'Connor after she claimed he had fueled Prince's drug habit and had also spiked his drink at a party at Eddie Murphy's house.[42] Hall dropped the lawsuit after O'Connor apologized and retracted her allegations.[43]




List of film performances
Year Title Role Notes
1987 Amazon Women on the Moon Apartment Victim
1988 Coming to America Semmi, Extremely Ugly Girl, Morris, Reverend Brown
1989 Harlem Nights Reggie (The Crying Man)
1989 Paula Abdul: Straight Up Himself Music video
1994 Blankman Himself
2005 The Naked Brothers Band: The Movie Himself
2005 The Proud Family Movie Dr. Carver, Bobby Proud
2006 Scooby-Doo! Pirates Ahoy! Captain Crothers
2007 Heckler Himself
2008 Igor Carl Cristall
2009 Black Dynamite Tasty Freeze
2017 Gilbert Himself
2017 Sandy Wexler Himself
2021 Coming 2 America Semmi, Morris, Reverend Brown, Baba (witch doctor), Extremely Ugly Girl (archival footage)


List of television performances
Year Title Role Notes Refs
1981, 1989 Soul Train Himself 2 episodes [45]
1982 Madame's Place Himself
1982 Elvira's Movie Macabre Dr. Mustapha Abdul Raheem Jamaal X Muhammad, Tyrone
1983 The 1/2 Hour Comedy Hour Host [46]
1983–1984 Match Game-Hollywood Squares Hour Celebrity panelist
1983–1984 Thicke of the Night Actor / Himself (1984)
1985 The Motown Revue Starring Smokey Robinson Regular [47]
1985 New Love, American Style Actor [48]
1986 The New Alfred Hitchcock Presents Cleavon Episode titled Happy Birthday
air date March 23, 1986
1986–1987 The Real Ghostbusters Winston Zeddemore, Mooglie seasons 1-3
1987 Uptown Comedy Express Himself
1987 Comedy Club Himself
1987–1988 The Late Show Host
1988 Solid Gold Himself
1989 Comic Relief III Himself
1989–1994 The Arsenio Hall Show Host Also writer and producer
1990 Doogie Howser, M.D. Himself
1990 Cheers Himself
1992 Ebony/Jet Showcase Himself [49]
1992 The Jackie Thomas Show Himself Ep. "The Joke" [50]
1993 Blossom Himself
1994 Living Single Himself
1997 Arsenio Michael Atwood [51]
1997 Behind the Music Himself Ep. "MC Hammer: Behind the Music #2" [52]
1997 Muppets Tonight Guest
1998 Intimate Portrait Narrator
1998–2000 Martial Law Terrell Parker 36 episodes
2000 The Norm Show Joe Episode titled Norm vs. the Kid
air date December 8, 2000
2002–2003 Hollywood Squares Celebrity panel
2003–2004 Star Search Host
2003 Tinseltown TV Himself
2004 CBS Cares Himself PSA
2008–2009 The World's Funniest Moments Host
2009–2010 The Jay Leno Show Correspondent
2009 Brothers Himself
2012 The Celebrity Apprentice 5 Contestant Winner of competition
2013–2014 The Arsenio Hall Show Host Also producer
2015–2016 Real Husbands of Hollywood Himself - Guest star
2016 Greatest Hits Host [53]
2017–2018 The Mayor Ocho Okoye Guest; 2 episodes
2018 All About the Washingtons Himself Guest; 2 episodes
List of biography television shows and specials
Year Title Episode Notes Refs
1996–2008 Biography 5 episodes
2001 E! True Hollywood Story
2008 Pioneers of Television (PBS)
2012 American Masters


As "Chunky A"[edit]


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  3. ^
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  9. ^ "Arsenio Hall inks picture pact at Par". Variety. December 9, 1987. p. 6.
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  12. ^ a b Diana E. Lundin (April 3, 1991). "Crank It Up!". Los Angeles Daily News. Orlando Sentinel. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
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  17. ^ "1991 MTV Video Music Awards". MTV. Retrieved January 30, 2016.
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  32. ^ Vicki Hyman/The Star-Ledger. "'Celebrity Apprentice' recap: Aubrey O'Day won't be bullied (that's her job!)". NJ. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
  33. ^ "Aubrey O'Day: Arsenio Hall Called Me "a Whore"". Us Weekly. April 4, 2012. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
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  35. ^ Andy Swift. "Aubrey O'Day On 'Celebrity Apprentice' – Will She Win? Feud Details". Archived from the original on June 8, 2012. Retrieved June 7, 2012.
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  37. ^ 'The Arsenio Hall Show' Canceled After One Season Variety. May 30, 2014
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  42. ^ "Arsenio Hall files a lawsuit after defamation". TMZ. May 5, 2016. Retrieved May 5, 2016.
  43. ^ "Arsenio Hall Drops Sinead O'Connor Lawsuit Over Prince Drug Comments". Rolling Stone. Retrieved February 8, 2018.
  44. ^ "Sally Jessy Raphael retreats from retreatTalk show..." The Baltimore Sun. April 8, 1992. Retrieved June 9, 2022.
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  50. ^ "Watch The Jackie Thomas Show Season 1 Episode 5: The Joke". TV Guide. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  51. ^ "Arsenio Hall Returns to TV In New ABC Series". Jet. March 3, 1997. p. 54. ISSN 0021-5996. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  52. ^ "Behind The Music: S1, E2 - MC Hammer". VH1. Archived from the original on November 5, 2016. Retrieved January 26, 2017.
  53. ^ "ABC Orders Singing Show 'Greatest Hits' Hosted by Arsenio Hall & Kelsea Ballerini". Billboard. Retrieved June 9, 2022.

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]