Many of the writers on Popblerd grew up watching the Arsenio Hall Show. I personally was never into Johnny, Dave, or Jay. I was into Arsenio. Why? I think that as a young person, Arsenio’s show spoke to me more so than the others did. He had the music groups I listened to on his show. I thought his stand-up was funnier. And he was simply cooler and edgier (and maybe a little nerdier).
He was friends with Eddie Murphy and Magic Johnson. Bill Clinton played sax on his show. He put hip hop acts on before anyone else did (and really, do you see hip hop on any late night show today?). He had the backs of New Edition, The New Kids On The Block, and MC Hammer. I remember seeing Martin Lawrence on Hall’s show before he was on any of the others.
The show ended in 1994 and now, almost 20 years later, he’s back. And according to Arsenio, back is beautiful.
The new show debuted a week and a half ago and if you were a previous Arsenio viewer, it’s almost as though nothing has changed. Sure, the set has changed. My man actually looks younger than he did in the early 90s (and I’m not sure how that is possible). And the throws back to the old show often. Will it bring in new viewers? We’ll have to wait and see. I do think the show can evolve the game by following a similar model as the original; feature music artists that have buzz, showcase up and coming comedians that are killing it in the social media game (including YouTube), friends that he can lean on (like Magic Johnson in week one), and playing to an audience that may have left the late-night game when he left (like myself).
Can he beat out the big hitters? Can he be as cool as Jimmy Kimmel and Jimmy Fallon? That’s to be seen. But I am enjoying it so far.
We wanted to look back at some of the memorable moments on his original show. The Popblerd crew (and friends) put together the list below of their favorite Arsenio moments. (GG)
Magic Johnson Talks About HIV
He made HIV real to everyone. It was no longer just a disease for gay people. Growing up in LA, I was a huge Lakers’ fan and Magic was everywhere and everyone felt like they knew him. He had the smile, the personality, the rings; he was Showtime. So, when he announced that he had HIV, it made everyone stop and think and finally give HIV the attention it deserved. You could feel the love people had for him that night on Arsenio and people were mourning him like he was already gone. This appearance caused the sentiment about the disease from people thinking it was a death sentence, to people seeing Magic live with it. (Chet)
Bill Clinton Plays The Sax
I was already caught up in the Presidential election and exerting my newfound right to vote in 1992, but I didn’t really see any intersection between pop culture and politics initially. Even though I identified as a Democrat, I didn’t see anything to differentiate candidates other than party affilliation. And then I saw Clinton playing the sax on Arsenio. While it didn’t necessarily win my vote, I finally had something at my fingertips that humanized Clinton in my eyes. For me, that made all the difference. (John H.)
Eddie Murphy and Michael Jackson
How often did you see Michael Jackson on a talk show? The King Of Pop ruled the ’80s while showing his face (and glove) on not one late-night program. Therefore, his appearance on Arsenio was a pretty stinkin’ big deal. Granted, it was barely an “appearance.” Michael strolled out in the middle of Arsenio’s conversation with mutual pal Eddie Murphy, presented Eddie with an award for Best Comedian Ever (as voted by MTV readers,) received an award for “Thriller” being the Best Video Ever, waved to the crowd, and walked off stage. It was very much in line with the shy, mysterious image Michael was selling at the time, and the audience was typically maniacal. At a time when a Michael Jackson appearance on television was equivalent to Halley’s Comet appearing (not to mention the fact that there was no internet to tip folks off,) I’d say the folks watching at home were probably as maniacal. I certainly was. (Big Money)
Hulk Hogan Lies About Steroids
In 1991, former WWF doctor George Zahorian was found guilty of steroid distribution to WWF wrestlers. After the trial was over, Hulk Hogan went on Arsenio to supposedly clear up the rumors about his steroid use. And then he basically denied everything. He claimed to only take steroids a few times as a result of injuries. Hogan’s lie had a big part in kickstarting another trial in which his former boss Vince McMahon had to defend himself on distribution and conspiracy charges. If Hogan had come clean, McMahon’s trial might’ve never happened. (GG)
De La Soul – Me, Myself, & I
I often wanted to see Arsenio’s face when they said, “You say we’re hippies, that’s pure Plug Bull…” (Chuck A.)
The New Kids Prove They Weren’t Lip Synchers
In the early Nineties, musicians were super-sensitive to the concept of lip-syncing. Following the discovery that the supposed front-people of acts like Black Box, C+C Music Factory and most notably, Milli Vanilli didn’t sing a lick on their records, the music business was put on the offensive.
So when a former musical director alleged that New Kids On The Block didn’t sing on their million-selling records, the group stopped a tour halfway across the world to appear on the Arsenio Hall show and prove the doubters wrong.
Led by an obviously agitated Donnie Wahlberg, NKOTB ripped through a medley of their hits and an interview. The singing was definitely live, as there were more than a few dodgy notes, but it was also apparent that Jordan Knight sang lead vocals on “You Got It (The Right Stuff)” and “Whatcha Gonna Do (About It)”. The performance concluded with a performance of their new single “If You Go Away,” which ended with an acapella segment. Needless to say, the allegations of the musical director were rescinded. (Big Money)
Patti On Prince
Prince made his first of two appearances on Arsenio in 1991 as part of his heavy promotional push behind the “Diamonds And Pearls” album. Besides the excitement of seeing an hour of television devoted to Prince performing, this show was also memorable for Arsenio’s co-host, Patti LaBelle. Patti was stuck with the responsibility of trying to convince everyone how “normal” Prince was and how he actually talked. And then after every song, Prince would dart offstage disproving everything Patti was saying about him. Her interaction with Sheila E. who was in the audience is also hilarious. “Sheila, talk!” (Mike. A)
Mariah Carey’s TV Debut
Growing up in the nineties many of us remember defining moments from the Arsenio Hall show. One of them for me is Mariah Carey’s first television performance of her breakout single “Vision of Love”. Definitely one of the moments where we witness a diva in the making! (Monica)
Rob & Fab
Arsenio offered a chance for redemption to the disgraced former faces of Milli Vanilli in 1992, two years after their lip-sync scandal. Fab Morvan and the late Rob Pilatus attempted a return as Rob & Fab and launched their comeback thanks to Arsenio, who like many had no problems getting laughs at the duo’s expense at the height of the Milli Vanilli backlash. But on this night, Arsenio gave the two a platform to tell their side of the story with a long interview and the television debut of their new single “We Can Get It On”, the first time most of America got to hear the actual singing voices of the duo. (Mike A.)
Hip Hop All-Stars
It was the last episode of the show’s run. What a way to close it down. (GG)