Arsenio Hall changed the late-night TV landscape three decades ago, when he became the first African American to host a successful, syndicated nightly talk show.
The Arsenio Hall Show initially ran from 1989 to 1994. The show offered a platform to up-and-coming Black artists, it grabbed viewers away from The Tonight Show Starring Johnny Carson, and it became a ratings hit.
Hall produced the show and brought it back for one season in 2013.
Now, 34 years after his groundbreaking program premiered, Hall says late-night TV has returned to a sea of white comedians.
I spoke with the Coming 2 America star on March 4, at The Comedy Store in West Hollywood on behalf of Extra. Hall was one of the comedians taking part in the pre and post-shows for Netflix’s Chris Rock: Selective Outrage.
I asked Hall if he’d considered launching another late-night TV show, and he didn’t mince words.
“No! Late night has changed. Now you can do late night at your house with Instagram,” he said. “There is still late night, don’t get me wrong, but they’re all white and they’re all named Jimmy or James.”
Hall has a point. The current line-up of late-night hosts on network TV consists of Jimmy Kimmel, Jimmy Fallon, Stephen Colbert, Seth Meyers, and James Corden, who is stepping down from The Late Late Show in April.
Trevor Noah hosted The Daily Show on Comedy Central, but he said goodbye in December after a 7-year run.
As Comedy Central searches for a new host, several comedians of color as well as female comics have filled in on the Daily Show in recent weeks, including D.L. Hughley, Leslie Jones, Chelsea Handler, Hasan Minhaj, Wanda Sykes, Marlon Wayans, and Sarah Silverman.
Arsenio Hall briefly returned to late night in 2021, as a fill-in host on Jimmy Kimmel Live!
As for his thoughts on Netflix streaming a night of live comedy to bookend Chris Rock’s stand-up special, Hall said the streamer moved the goal post.
“Netflix has put together a Super Bowl of comedy, this has never been done before. It’s never been live,” he said. “The Super Bowl, you wake up at noon and it’s on, then they play at three, then after the game it’s on, and that’s what they are doing. It’s on.”