Ready for some Arsenio Hall? Now you can get your blast-from-the-past fill daily.
At 11 p.m. Monday on The CW Network, the actor-comedian, 57, is resuscitating his late-night talk show that ran from 1989 until 1994. We chatted with Hall on a recent conference call about his return to the arena after taking some time away to raise his now 13-year-old son, Arsenio Jr., as a single parent. Chris Tucker, Lisa Kudrow, Magic Johnson, George Lopez and Angela Bassett are among the guests the first week.
How are you going to feel about stepping on that stage after 19 years?
It’s not hard to make me cry. And that’s what I’ve got to do is contain my emotions. Some people don’t get to do this once and I’ve been able to do this all my life. A lot of journalists who interview me, they don’t know what Thicke of the Night is. They don’t know I was there [announcing].
How did winning “Celebrity Apprentice” last year shape your popularity and did that play a role in your return?
At the time I was doing Apprentice I had already made the decision to come back. My job at that point as I saw it was to get my face out into the public. I wrote an article for The Daily Beast about fatherhood, I went on Chelsea Lately, I went on Leno 56 times, I sat in for Piers Morgan. Every year I turned down Dancing with the Stars because I’m the brother who cannot dance. I love Apprentice as a viewer and as an opportunity. I saw it as something that I could do. And I just needed to sit with my son and say, ‘Daddy is getting ready to leave.’ And I went to New York, and the best-case scenario happened. I ended up with Clay Aiken in the live Apprentice finale. And since I have never won an NBA championship or even a high school or a state championship in Ohio, that was the greatest, most memorable moment of my life.
What advice can you give to someone who wants to enter showbiz?
The one thing I would say is first of all enjoy it. Sometimes we get caught in the hustle. Sometimes you’ve got to smell those roses. I remember when I first started, Quincy Jones told me that in show business, the word ‘business’ is larger than ‘show.’ And I always lived by that. One of the things I love about what I’m going through is [my son] gets to see what I do and he gets to see how hard I work. The worst thing a kid can see is think that life is just on a platter for you. So the biggest lesson I learned as I approach this is nothing is given.
How have things changed out there?
If you realize how long ago it was that I was gigging, when I was standing on the monologue mark, there was no cell phone in my pocket. There is no host including Chelsea Handler who is not carrying a cell phone when she’s standing on her monologue mark. The whole business has changed: accessibility, the ability to get information and write jokes, the ability to put things online and do viral videos. I am so excited to jump back into a late-night opportunity and have those tools.
You had Bill Clinton on playing the sax back when he was a candidate. Do you have Obama lined up?
Actually I do have a few spaces left that if Hillary walked in with a saxophone I’d stick her in there. But Barack Obama, I’m not sure if there is anything he could do on a late night show anymore. If I can get him and maybe 50 Cent to do some kind of rap ditty of some type [laughs]....