Arsenio Hall talks about his late night gig

Arsenio Hall, photo by Margie Barron

Arsenio Hall, photo by Margie Barron

 Arsenio Hall has returned to  the late night scene with his new talk show, catering to a different type of audience– a young crowd that tweets. Slimmer, with less hair and smaller shoulder pads than when he was one of the new dogs of late night at the end of the ’80s, Arsenio says there’s a big difference between last time and now. “I didn’t have one of these (cell phone) in my pocket. I’m a total slave to it. I’m tweeting all the time.” And so is the young audience that tunes in The Arsenio Hall Show, according to the demos.

 Arsenio says he’s returning to TV “because I love to make people laugh. There’s a lot of competition, but I know that everybody doesn’t have a late‑night host.  One of the biggest challenges for all of us as late‑night hosts is to get people to make an appointment to watch TV and not say, ‘I’ll watch Fallon yodel tomorrow,’ because you have that ability to Google anything and find anything that’s been on.”

 He says the challenges to build a large audience are gigantic now. “Statistics have some interesting to say about your biggest fan—people who come up to you in the mall and say, ‘I watch you every night, man.’ And that’s not true. Your biggest fan doesn’t watch you every night. You hope to get a guy three nights a week to check you out, and two nights they’ll be watching other people. Sometimes you’ll get one night. But you hope if you do a good, funny show, and you assert a unique personality, that will get you in the game.”

 Inserting himself into the culture of current music and what’s happening now with social media is how he’ll get attention nowadays. He acknowledged that television has changed drastically since his first go round. “It’s a digital world, but I still want to write jokes and do comedy.” He’s hoping the younger crowd will tune in to see him include more comedians and musicians as guests.

 Talking about the highlights of his late night career’s first edition, he says, “I’m most proud of the night Magic Johnson made his announcement [revealing he was HIV positive], mostly because he’s my friend and it was the most important night of his life, and I kind of didn’t want to mess it up.” That appearance on Arsenio had a ripple effect, helping with funding for HIV/Aids research, helping motivate people to get tested and use protection, and much more.

 But Arsenio’s main goal is to entertain. “If you’re looking for a message, you can go to Western Union, but I’m not really that guy. I’m about sending you to bed with a smile on your face. That kind of daunting task with Magic was rough. But I’m also very proud of the Bill Clinton situation [playing his saxophone on the show] because of the way it’s lived on, and the way it’s forced people [politicians] to talk to Leno, etc. It kind of changed the way people campaign. So I’m proud of anything that left a small mark or changed something.” #


Frank Barron is the former editor of The Hollywood Reporter, having served twice in that capacity. In between, he was West Coast news director for Billboard Publications, supervising their five magazines. Barron also created the western TV series “The Man From Blackhawk” for the ABC network. For more than three decades he and writer-wife Margie Barron have covered Hollywood for Production Update magazine, and they currently contribute to numerous publications. Frank started in showbiz as publicity director for the KHJ radio and television station. Before moving to California, he was a sports editor in New Jersey.

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