BETTER LATE THAN NEVER
The Arsenio Hall Show shook up ’90s nighttime TV with hip-hop generation guests, culture-defining gags and iconic interviews. As Hall prepares for the legendary show’s reboot, the actor/host drops gems on his grand closing and reopening
-If you’re doing anything new, you’re going to be met by opposition. In beginning there were times when white folks weren’t feeling The Arsenio Hall Show and black folks had yet to get on board. The day Snoop was to come on my show, a lady crushed his CDs with a steamroller for the press. I felt very alone.
-I saw Rick Ross on Jimmy Kimmel Live! one night and smiled. I remember a time when I’d have to fight a month to get somebody like Ross on. I’d get a call from the suits like, “You are going to talk to Tupac about his mom turning him on to marijuana?” And I’m like, “Yes, motherfucker!”
-When Louis Farrakhan said “I would like to talk about Malcolm X’s death,” as a Black talk show host I have to take that to the community. Did that interview destroy some of the love people had for me? Maybe. But I’m just the messenger.
-My biggest triumph is succeeding in late-night culture as a minority. A lot of our most talented entertainers have tried—from Whoopi Goldberg to Ted Danson—and it didn’t work. You just don’t know what God is going to let work.
-After I left the show, Martin Lawrence called me on three-way with Jerry Bruckheimer and said, “I have a script for a movie called Bad Boys.” I go, “Guys, I left show business because I have some personal shit I want to do.” They thought I was nuts. And to this day, I think I was nuts. [Laughs]
-I left because I needed balance. My relationship was falling apart. The one thing about success is you are burning the candle at both ends. You got to put time in your relationships to make them work.
-Part of me wants to help the show’s legacy for my son. For the last 12 years I’ve been making him breakfast. But he needs to know that other side of me, too. To be a man you have to see a man.
-There’s a contagious fun about Jimmy Fallon; he’s revolutionized the talk show format. And Jay Leno has kept it no. 1. You have to figure out how to exist with both of these guys. NBC fucks everything. NBC would fuck up a wet dream if they could.
-I’m the guy that stays ahead of the curve—I don’t want nothing old in the room but me. —As told to Keith Murphy