In Appreciation: Arsenio Hall


He came back. Arsenio Hall is back on television and it’s bittersweet. It’s great to see him on my TV once again, starting from where he left off but there was such an incredible void. Arsenio’s show ended in 1994 and since then a cavalcade of events occurred right after another that shifted and reshaped the landscape of pop culture. One can only imagine how Hall’s program would’ve dealt with the growth of the culture in the mid to late 90s. In each and every episode, he exemplified a success story that we all had a stake in. He proved that being young and black with a successful television show was possible. He was OUR voice. He represented US. With every show, every interview, Arsenio Hall paved the way for many and I’ll forever be grateful.

He defined the art of “getting busy” before the beautifully rotten age of the Internet. The only forms of communication during the time of his reign of popularity were quite primitive. No smart phones. 8 and 16-bit video games. No Bloggers giving their unwanted, unwarranted and pompously misled opinions on celebrities. Just the idiot box (or the TV as most of you refer to it). We weren’t just a minority in the real world, but also that in TV Land. Besides The Cosbys and the Fresh Prince, nothing else bared a resemblance to what I knew . I was too young to really stay up late to watch Arsenio but my parents would tape episodes and I’d be able to relive what they saw the night before and I loved it. My father’s friends were responsible for a 5 or 6 year old Mikey pumping his fists and barking like a full grown Mastiff on command.

Classic Moments. Yeah Jimmy Fallon has The Roots as his house band and even had President Barack Obama on a few times and that’s cool and all but Arsenio set the tone. Back in 1992, Bill Clinton not only made an appearance on his show but he played the saxophone. THE SAXOPHONE. Let’s not even forget that Arsenio’s house band, The Posse, played nothing but the funk. Or what about that important moment when Magic Johnson announced that he had contracted the HIV virus to the world and one of his first stops after that proclamation was Arsenio’s couch.

Michael Jordan, Michael Jackson, Madonna, Eddie Murphy, 2pac, Eazy E, Snoop Dogg, Dr. Dre, Chris Tucker, Paula Abdul (Hall allegedly dated her… POW!), Denzel Washington, Hulk Hogan, The Ultimate Warrior, Halle Berry (she was super BAD) and a slew of all kinds of musicians, actors/actresses, and political figures (Farrakhan’s appearance reportedly put the nail in the coffin for his show) sat on that gray couch and had memorable one on ones with Arsenio. Yeah there was Carson, Leno, Letterman, and so on and so forth but none of those guys, with all due respect, made such a lasting impression or stirred up such a high level of inspiration.

He showed love to everyone. No matter the ethnicity or sexual preference, that late night show provided a unified front for every kind of individual which is why he had such a strong following amongst younger audiences. I’ve watched his latest episodes and I feel that he’s trying to find his groove and after a 19 year absence, it may take a while. But no matter what, Arsenio broke ground and shattered expectations. So I’d like to say Thank You to Mr. Hall for setting the stage (no pun intended) for the culture and all those that dreamt of entertaining the masses in style.