People who tune in will see “kind of the same Arsenio you know,” Hall says. “Less hair, less shoulder pads,” but dealing with “this culture of music, comedy, pop and hop, talking to … a whole generation of new talent” — not Alan Thicke but Robin Thicke.
“At the end of the day,” Hall says, “I’m a standup comic. I go out there and I try to get laughs, and whoever comes, you’re happy.” He won’t do a “young” joke “just because I’m looking for a young audience. I just have to be funny in the way that I do it, and you hope that people see you and laugh.”
• Queen Latifah, beginning Sept. 16: Queen Latifah — the rapper, singer, Oscar-nominated actress (for Chicago) and businesswoman — didn’t set out to create a late-night show. In most places, her new entry airs in daytime, but in the crowded St. Louis market, she lands in the way-way-back slot after “Craig Ferguson.”
The structure of her show won’t be all that different for late night, featuring celebrity interviews, music and location bits. But it’s likely to have the cozier, more female-centric tone of, say, an “Ellen” or “Oprah,” with “uplifting storytelling” and plenty of heart.
Latifah (friends call her by her real name, Dana Owens, or “La,” or “Tifa,” or “Queen,” and she answers to all) promises something for everyone.
“The one thing that defines my career is variety,” she says. “I’ve done so many things, and thankfully the audience has allowed me to take this journey. … This is an obvious next step in my career. I get to have fun. I get to entertain. I get to bring all the amazing stories from people who have inspired me throughout the years, the people who do great things every day that maybe you don’t know about, but should be celebrated as much as the celebrities who come on this show.”
She’ll be adventurous, she promised, and a clip shows her hang gliding.
“I’m going to push it as far as I possibly can, because I think the reason we are all sitting here today is that we are all women who pushed through our fears,” she says. (Her friend Jada Pinkett Smith and Corin Nelson are both executive producers, along with Latifah.) “We like the next challenge. It helps us remember who we are or shows us who we can become.”
Is she aiming for Oprah Winfrey territory? She’s not quite that bold.
“People have asked me, ‘Do you want to be the next Oprah?’ There is no such thing. Oprah is Oprah, and she’s still being Oprah in case anyone hadn’t noticed. Obviously there are great things she accomplished, and I’d love to be able to accomplish some of those things, but I think what I bring to television is me. I’m Queen Latifah. I’ve had a different life story and a different path that I’ve traveled.”
One thing she’ll emulate, though, is Winfrey’s ability to “take people on a journey with her.” She’s hoping, Latifah says, “that we can, as we get to know our audience, take them on a journey with us (and) we’ll grow together.”