The Arsenio Hall Show is an American variety/talk show that aired late weeknights in syndication from January 3, 1989 to May 27, 1994. The show was created and hosted by comedian/actor Arsenio Hall. Hall had been a host on The Late Show, another talk show on FOX, after the dismissal of Joan Rivers. He was given a 13-week run, during which he became unexpectedly popular. During the monologue of his final appearance as host, Hall stated that the reason he had agreed to only do 13 weeks was because that was as long as he was able to stay, as he had plans "to do other things." He subsequently began working on the Eddie Murphy vehicle Coming to America. He ultimately signed with Paramount Television before Fox finally decided, too late, that they wanted to keep him. (This was the second hosting job Paramount hired Hall for, as he had just finished a three-year run as a co-host of Solid Gold in July 1988.)
Hall's show was aimed primarily at the younger urban audience, with Eddie Murphy (a personal friend of Hall's) and other performers often featured. The show quickly appealed to young people of all races and began to attract a wide variety of guests. It became the show for entertainers to go to in order to reach the "MTV Generation." It was also the only late night program to fully embrace the Hip-Hop and Grunge movement of the 1990's while the other shows shunned them (until Arsenio became huge that is). Then-presidential candidate Bill Clinton was a guest on the show in June 1992, playing "Heartbreak Hotel" on the saxophone (causing Arsenio to quip, "It's nice to see a Democrat blow something besides the election"). The appearance is often considered an important moment in Clinton's political career, helping build his popularity among minority and young voters; Clinton went on to win the election in November 1992.
The show was known for the audience's chant of "Roo! Roo! Roo!" while pumping their fists in a circular motion. Some say this was appropriated from the fan chants at Cleveland Browns games, and others say that it came from the chant of Black Greek Letter Organization Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated. In any case, it quickly became associated with Hall's show.
The program remained popular into 1993, but as the year went on Hall and Paramount began having rating problems. Most of the stations that carried the show were CBS and FOX affiliates, both of which didn't have their own late-night talk shows at the time — the former since The Pat Sajak Show was cancelled in 1990 after lasting barely a year, the latter since The Late Show was cancelled in 1988. In summer 1993, after being snubbed for the succession of Johnny Carson on The Tonight Show in favor of Jay Leno, David Letterman debuted his own talk show on CBS, making Arsenio Hall redundant for its affiliates. In September, FOX premiered The Chevy Chase Show and forced its affiliates to either cancel Arsenio Hall or move him to another, less desirable slot; despite the former being cancelled within five weeks amid bad ratings and reviews, affiliates were reluctant to move the latter back. These losses ultimately led to the show's cancellation. His replacement was the short-lived Jon Stewart Show.
A new version of the show debuted in September 2013, distributed by CBS Television Distribution (a descendant of Paramount Television) but was canceled in May of 2014.
Tropes featured include:
- The Announcer: Burton Richardson, who also announced for the 1990-91 and 2000-02 runs of To Tell the Truth, the 1994 syndicated version of The Price Is Right (also distributed by Paramount), Family Feud from 1999 to 2010, Russian Roulette, and the first two seasons of Family Game Night.
- Berserk Button: A taping of an episode was interrupted by members of gay rights group Queer Nation, who accused Arsenio of not inviting enough LGBT celebrities as guests on his show. The ever-inclusive Arsenio did not take this well.
- Crossover: Jason Voorhees once appeared on the show. Really. (This was to plug Friday the 13th Part VIII: Jason Takes Manhattan, which ended up as the last Paramount-produced Friday the 13th.)
- Incredibly Long Note: Burton Richardson's introduction of Arsenio Hall infamously drew out the "o".
- Studio Audience: Referred to as "The Dog Pound".