Bill Clinton’s cameo appearance on Arsenio, where he sat in with the house band and played sax, greatly enhanced the then-candidate’s ‘cool factor’ and arguably helped get him election in 1992.
In a cringeworthy confrontation, an uncharacteristically hostile Arsenio challenged Vanilla Ice’s hip-hop bonafides and his affiliation with black culture back in 1991. To this day the interview has divided viewers, but it made for great television.
Real life, on-again off-again couple Arsenio Hall and Paula Abdul frequently generated sparks on the talk show set. Their flirtatious banter was usually met with the infamous ‘woof woof’ chants from the crowd.
Arsenio had his share of eclectic, even oddball guests. But probably the weirdest was horror character Jason Voorhees from the Friday the 13th film series.The host played brilliantly off his silent, scary foil.
During a 1991 taping of his show, Arsenio got into a very intense encounter with an audience member (wearing a ‘Queer Nation’ shirt) who argued that the host was excluding gay guests from his show. Hall held it down for seven whole minutes.
Arsenio was known for having high-profile stars just drop by (none moreso than his famous friend Eddie Murphy). But in 1989 he got the biggest star in the world — Michael Jackson — to make an appearance alongside the comedy icon. A classic TV moment.
When Magic Johnson revealed to the world that he had contracted HIV in 1992, his close friend Arsenio was one of his most vocal supporters. Not only did he have him on his show to dispel myths about the disease but he also appeared in a series of influential PSAs aimed at young people.
Arsenio’s show was one of the first platforms to provide national exposure to hip-hop music and artists. One of his best sit-downs was with Tupac Shakur while he was promoting his role in Poetic Justice alongside Janet Jackson.
With Johnny Carson’s departure from The Tonight Show in 1992, Arsenio seemed poised to dominate late night’s growing youth audience. He famously declared he would “kick Jay Leno’s a**” but ultimately he didn’t get the last laugh.
In 1994, Arsenio booked controversial Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan for an extensive interview. This move is believed to have contributed to the eventual cancellation of his talk show.
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It’s official — Arsenio Hall is returning to late night television. In anticipation of his big comeback, which won’t begin to air until 2013 on syndicated stations, theGrio has compiled this slideshow of some of the most memorable moments from his iconic 1989-1994 talk show. Enjoy this trip down memory lane.