Tonight, a certain Celebrity Apprentice-winning comedian will revive his early-’90s syndicated late-night talk show, The Arsenio Hall Show. Should we warm him up by asking him a few Stupid Questions? Hall, yes!
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: If the ’90s version of you time-traveled to the present to be a guest on your show, what’s the first thing you’d say to yourself, after all the fist-pumping and woof-woofing died down?
ARSENIO HALL: “A lot less hair and shoulder pads, my friend!”
Bill Clinton played sax on your show in what would prove to be a historic politics-as-entertainment moment. Did you ever in your wildest dreams think that it would pave the way one day for Mike Huckabee to play bass on Leno?
No wonder I can’t book Paul McCartney. Somewhere right now he just threw up in his mouth a little. What a horrible road I’ve paved if that’s how it ended. Huckabee — oh, man. I’m surprised he didn’t wear stretch pants on Leno. Homey has no pocket.
You’ve done a lot of smiling and pointing your fingers like a gun. Did you clear that with Isaac from The Love Boat, a.k.a. Ted Lange, or is it easier to beg for forgiveness than ask for permission?
Trust me, Isaac from The Love Boat has no knowledge that you’re even using the word “gun” associated with him. My name is Italian, and I just point a lot. I wasn’t aware that it was Lange-esque.
One of your recurring bits on the show was “Things That Make You Go Hmmm,” which begat a C&C Music Factory song. What was the last thing that made you go hmmm?
You ever walk in someone’s bathroom and you put lotion in your hand and then like an hour later you see this Jergens booger, this lotion nugget? With technology — we have Purell wipes, we have amazing things at our beck and call — there has to be a way to get rid of that little Jergens nugget thing. It’s not like I hadn’t been in that room for a few years. A day later there’s a lotion booger. What happens is that thing ends up on your face or your neck and you’re sitting at dinner, and somebody says, “Hey, what’s that on your face?” and you have to convince them that it’s a hard piece of lotion and they never believe that. Hmmm…. There has to be solution in 2013 to the Jergens nugget.
You were the sidekick on Alan Thicke’s 1983-84 talk show Thicke of the Night. Now that enough time has passed, be honest: How thick did things get?
He was very popular with the ladies, so I’m going to say: So thick you had to add an e.
Let’s talk about your 1988 movie, Coming to America. How bad was the food at McDowell’s, really?
For some reason McDowell’s found a way to fry more things than McDonald’s. You really don’t need your straw fried. And what is a McChitlin? This is how different times were: In the office in McDowell’s — you don’t see this in the movie — there was an oil portrait of Paula Deen.
Which animal-based insult from that movie is more offensive to the recipient: “sweat from a baboon’s balls” or a “diseased rhinoceros pizzle“?
Rhinoceros pizzle is so directly parallel to the male member, that I think you have to say rhinoceros pizzle is the worst. Sweat from a baboon’s balls — there are ways of correcting that situation and making it better. But when you are a diseased rhinoceros pizzle, I think you are on the other side of correction.
You were the first African-American to host a national late-night talk show. Complete this sentence: “Believe it or not, I was also the first African-American to….”
To carve the three Adidas stripes into my afro. Because LL Cool J loved Adidas but he didn’t have hair. Same with Samuel Jackson. Back in the day, he wanted to put the Kangol kangaroo on his. He was in Coming to America — I’ve had this conversation on the set. Unfortunately I beat them all to it.
What’s the worst pun that anyone has ever attempted with your name?
It made me laugh, so really it may not fit into what you’re saying but it was the first one that came to mind. This chick was angry at me. And I’m going to even say who it was, it was Paula [Abdul]. She called me “Arseni-ho.” She was angry at me because of somebody I went to lunch with. It made laugh and I wasn’t supposed to be laughing, so that got me punched in the arm.
Rank these celebrities who’ve appeared in Paula Abdul videos in order of rhythm: you, MC Skat Kat, Keanu Reeves.
At the bottom of the list is Keanu, because Keanu has the rhythm of navel lint. We all know that. But here’s the great thing: He’s turned it into cool. It’s like, “No one will know I’m not Deney Terrio because I’m gonna just be real still and turn that lack of soul into something real cool and Matrix-like.” Now, MC Skat Kat — I’m not going to fake the funk. He’s at the top of the list, we’ve seen him work. I’ve seen MC Skat Kat dance and heard Shabba-Doo say, ‘Dammmmn!’ So I go right in the middle. I’ve always been number 2. Number 2 to Leno, I was number 2 in a magic contest when I was little. I beat Clay Aiken [on The Celebrity Apprentice], but I’m probably number 2 to Ruben Studdard because he did it first.
Congrats on winning The Celebrity Apprentice, by the way. How much credit is Trump taking for your new talk show?
You know how Trump is. The interesting thing is, I think Trump is taking credit for my first talk show.
While promoting that first show on EW’s cover in 1992, you vowed to kick Jay Leno’s ass. That didn’t happen. Make a promise to kick another host’s ass that you probably won’t be able to keep.
Is The MacNeil/Lehrer Report still on? Check, please.