arsenio-hall-show

All late night needed was a change of pace. In the late ’80s, late night television had one singular king – Johnny Carson. Carson had lent his stage to those who would jockey for the late night throne in David Letterman and Jay Leno on occasion but neither of them initially had the pull of one Arsenio Hall.

Hall was a gambit, a comedian from Cleveland who had made his bones as one of the main writers on Solid Gold before Paramount picked him up and his show following his success on the defunct The Late Show. He had owned 1988 when he joined friend Eddie Murphy in the generational classic comedy Coming To America and now in 1989, his brand of in your face humor amid a revolving door of pop culture and black celebrity would become another generational talking point.

The Arsenio Hall Show debuted 25 years ago today, something that may mean very little in this day and age where nearly anyone can create a show via social media but in that small space of network TV — Hall’s show was different. He once asked Dr. Ruth had she ever faked an orgasm. Dr. Ruth. He broke through putting on Bill Clinton when he was then a presidential candidate in 1992, allowing him to play Elvis’ “Heartbreak Hotel” and quipping, “It’s nice to see a Democrat blowing something other than the election.” There was Tupac in 1994 following his charges on rape the year prior, fighting the Hughes Brothers on the set of Menace II Society and countless other moments.

Even with its revival on syndication today, plenty of bits of Hall’s lasting brand exist. There are still performances by certain guests, rappers, R&B singers and others who may not have crashed the bigger programs on late night and even though Jimmy Fallon may currently own the title of coolest name in late night television, set to take over The Tonight Show later this year — he himself may have a bit to owe to Arsenio & his original posse.

To think, it all started with Brooke Shields & Luther Vandross as his first guests.