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Mainstream Media Ignores Arsenio Hall's Contributions To Late Night; Arsenio Hall Swiftly Reacts

Features
by Erik Luers
February 19, 2014 1:50 PM
21 Comments
  • |

As the world continues to discuss all things related to the recent start of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon, some fellow Late Night talk show hosts have been feeling a little left out. Some have even felt a little discriminated against.

As many are aware, comedian Arsenio Hall returned to the airwaves with Arsenio, a popular-amongst-the-youth program originally titled The Arsenio Hall Show running from 1989-1994, last September. When it originally premiered in the 80s, the show was seen as a cool, edgy alternative to the similarly formatted Late Night programs featuring Johnny Carson. Some of Hall's guests included Ice Cube, Hulk Hogan, Vanilla Ice, Tupac and, perhaps most famously, Bill Clinton in the summer of 1992 (Clinton's appearance on the show helped the presidential candidate appeal to younger voters). Hall has garnered a lot of good will over the past few years and, upon the announcement that his show would be returning after a nineteen year hiatus, was clearly excited to be back doing what he loves.

The new program hasn't been a complete success. The times have changed, Hall has gotten older and the “hip” factor that defined the show has softened somewhat. Still, one hundred episodes in, it's clear that Hall feels blessed and is clearly having a good time chatting it up with old friends; Eddie Murphy, Magic Johnson and Ice Cube have been just a few of the guests who have appeared on the program's second incarnation so far. Nowhere near as popular as he once was, Hall nonetheless provides a refreshing, if familiar, breath of fresh air.

Last night, Hall seemed a little ticked off, however, and for good reason. As everyone obsessed over every nook and cranny of The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon debut, some media commentators and news broadcasters took some liberties in their reporting of the event. Basically, they described Jimmy Fallon's Late Night competition without accurately listing all of his competitors. Who was left off the list? Arsenio Hall.

Hall mentioned this oversight on his program last night, directing audiences to an article in The New York Times and a clip featuring Brian Williams of NBC News. The Times piece provided photos of Fallon's Late Night competition: those featured were exclusively Caucasian comedians (David Letterman, Stephen Colbert, Jimmy Kimmel, Chelsea Handler, Seth Meyers, Jon Stewart and Conan O'Brien). Hall seemed saddened but not overly angry at his snub in the piece (“Maybe they don't have enough room. You know, brown ink is more expensive maybe......”).

Hall then moved onto a clip from NBC news which covered the same topic: “The time slot will now be fought over by two Jimmies and a Dave, along with all the other media out there slugging it out for the turf Johnny Carson used to own outright,” Brian Williams noted. Williams's segment then provided nine screen-grabs of current late night comedians, in box-like shapes a la Hollywood Squares, who are “slugging it out” for that desired turf. Again, they were all Caucasian: Craig Ferguson, Carson Daly and Andy Cohen were featured alongside Letterman, Colbert, Kimmel, Handler, Stewart and O'Brien. 

Hall's in-studio audience was shocked. “If you're doing a story about Late Night, all I ask is that you mention me," Hall said, "you don't even have to use a photo. You don't even have to use a photo! I know how journalism is these days. Use Samuel Jackson's! Don't have to be my photo! I'll vote for anything. Use Lawrence Fishburne's!”This last bit was, of course, in reference to the much covered new story a few weeks ago in which Samuel L. Jackson was mistaken by a news reporter for being in a 2014 Super Bowl commercial (the reporter mistook Jackson for Lawrence Fishburne). 

Hall then made a pretty worthwhile point that provided an interesting hook that NBC's Late Night segment could have run with... had they done the necessary research. Of all the Late Night hosts they chronicled, NBC forgot that Hall is the only current Late Night host to have gone up against Johnny Carson's Tonight Show on a weekly basis (Hall's program began in 1989, while Carson's ended in 1992). Hall did fight for that very turf over twenty years ago. Now the media is marginalizing him for other, more lighter-skinned talent. 

“This is not about them,” Hall was quick to note, “this is about journalism.” 

Hall then made the very ballsy move of calling Brian Williams's phone number (most likely an NBC work number) live for everyone to hear. He was amped up and ready to voice his disapproval. Since no one picked up, Hall provided his viewers with the number to try again later (212-6644-4971, for those interested). “Call Brian,” Hall pleaded, “and ask him why they don't mention me.”

Hall proceeded to go into a skit with Suge Knight, the evening's featured guest, of the once prolific Death Row Records. “I don't want to come off as the angry black man,” Hall began, “so I'm taking it in the spirit that I should. But I've got a friend in my dressing room. He said 'I'll be the angry black man.'” Knight then came out to a round of applause for what was admittedly a soft closer to Hall's very provocative argument. And while it softened the impact of the monologue, it luckily didn't diminish it.

What to make of Hall's exclusion from all these zeitgeisty, buzz-worthy articles on the battle for Late Night? Is not everyone on board with Hall's return to television? Are Hall's lower ratings the reason he is being treated like an insignificant aside? Does the public not feel that he's relevant anymore? This is hard to believe. The Late Night hosting community features a pretty small, tight knit group of comedians who all become famous for their nightly one or less hours behind a desk chatting with celebrities. 

Perhaps the media isn't interested in Hall because mentioning him would complicate or shift the direction of the story they are trying to tell. One's thing's for certain: The New York Times and NBC News emerge from this debacle quite poorly.

Watch video or Hall's lament from last night, below:

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21 Comments

  • Sonja Little | June 6, 2014 7:51 PMReply

    I say to you... You are just a hater... Hall's rating is not that low and he the best thing going on TV at Late Night... He the only man who really went up Against Mr. Johnny Carson on Late Night in the 80's & 90's... You my friend need to wake up.

  • Jenn56 | April 5, 2014 12:44 AMReply

    The Letterman Show just right for an Arsenio Hall makeover.

  • sergio | February 20, 2014 11:31 AMReply

    Brian Williams did apologize to Hall on his newscast last night

  • zakkmu | February 20, 2014 4:15 AMReply

    Its pathetic when your own people continue to particpate in self destruction. It's hard enough when the establishment does it. But when your own people participate in this crabs in the barrel syndrome. Its crazy and shear lunacy. The truth of the matter is. Arsenio Hall is the main reason Jimmy Fallon got an upgrade. Think about it? Jay Leno was Number 1 in the late night TV wars. His show was not suffering as far as bringing in the ad dollars . He had the highest rated TV audience. I read the major entertainment blogs & publications. No TV critic could give an a honest assessment of why "NBC" pulled the plug on Jay Leno's show. And you know Jay Leno got a golden parachute. By way of him signing a 2 year no compete clause. I know competing networks was lined-up to sign him. With regards to Arsenio Hall low ratings that was a last year "2013" story. I'm not interested in a "2013" story. What is his ratings now? It takes time to perfect a show? My example would be "Oprah Winfrey's cable channel. Give the brother some time. I watch his show as much as I can. I always have my DVR set. Just in case I can't catch his show. In my opinion his show has gotten better as far as guess goes. I've notice Arsenio's audience have gotten bigger. In my opinion some of "Jay's" audience will galvanize to "Arsenio Hall's Show." I know the doom sayers don't want to hear this. But this could very well turn out to be a boom as far as picking up more viewers. For the "Arsenio Hall Show." Come on people put your thinking caps on. Do you really think "Jay Leno's audience is going to galvanize to "Jimmy Fallon's Show?"
    Humm??? I think not. They will be evenly spilt between "Arsenio Hall's Show" & "David Letterman's Show."(lol) In the immortal words of Lawrence Fishburne from the movie "School Daze." Wake-Up!(lol)

  • Donella | February 20, 2014 11:06 AM

    But CC, they were doomsaying Queen Latifah and she's doing all right.

    Same with Oprah. Doing all right.

    I still say, give Arsenio a chance.

  • CC | February 20, 2014 4:25 AM

    Zakkmu, are you a gambling man?

  • sina | February 20, 2014 12:17 AMReply

    You may want to spell check your articles.

  • CareyCarey | February 19, 2014 10:23 PMReply

    **The phone rings in an apartment in the Hyde Park neighborhood of Chicago. An older looking black hand picks up the receiver**

    "Hello"

    Hey Sergio, this is CareyCarey, whatsup man

    "Hey Carey, whatsup with you man. Are you coming up to the Black Cinema House? I know you're going to watch me host the screening of the ultimate Blaxploitation Film "Three The Hard Way" at Chicago's Black Cinema House and join the discussion?"

    Nawl man, that's not why I'm calling. But that reminds me, the last time I came up to visit with you at the Cinema House, your behind was ghost. My lady and I came through during the Chicago Film Festival weekend and you were suppose to be there. Well, at least I assumed you would. But nooooo, you were probably hobnobbing with the fancy-dancy international film critics crowd... didn't have time for your home boy.

    SERGIO: "Don't even try it. In fact, it was you who started the trend of disappearing acts. I'm still waiting for you to pick me up on the way to see "An Evening with Spike Lee" at North Central College in Naperville. And that was exactly 3 years ago from today. Needless to say, I lost a few toes standing in this sub-zero weather. "

    Carey: Come on man, let that go, sh*t happens, I told you my son was missing, lets talk about a time called now. Listen, did you hear what they're saying about Arsenio?

    "Arsenio? Arsenio who?"

    Don't play, how many Arsenio's do you know. Arsenio Hall fool. They said he's pissed off about being disrespected.

    "First, who said that, and why should I care anything about Arsenio Hall?

    Well, some guy at Shadow and Act, Erik Luers wrote...

    "STOP! Hold it right there. Don't tell me Tambay has let another sidewinder white guy in the back door. I have to talk to that boy, but go ahead."

    Carey: "Yeah, I was thinking the same thing... but he wrote a post on Arsenio Hall."

    "STOP-STOP-STOP! Carey, you of all people should know I could give a rat's azz about Arsenio "dain't funny" Hall. As I said in my post, he was never witty nor entertaining in the least, except when he was being Eddie Murphy's lap dog. So whatever Lukey said about him, Arsenio should look at it as a blessing. Hell, I didn't even know he was still on the air... who watches his boring azz anyway?

    "You're right man. I just thought..."

    You thought like Mr. Lit... he thought he farted but he sh*t. So get off my phone, your breath stinks!

    "#%$^ you too man, you old goat. bye"

  • CareyCarey | February 20, 2014 4:04 AM

    Dave, cool by me but make sure you add the words "based on a true story". No, not that Sergio is an old goat, but I did back out of that event in Naperville/Chicago and Sergio was absent the weekend I visited Chicago's Black Cinema House.

    And, the story continues... Three The Hard Way | March 2 Presented by film critic and Black Cinema House Programming Advisory Committee member, Sergio Mims. In the audience...

  • Dave's Deluxe | February 20, 2014 12:32 AM

    I'm stealing this and making it a short film. Don't worry: I'll change the names to protect the innocent.

  • Carl | February 19, 2014 9:34 PMReply

    "Are Hall's lower ratings the reason he is being treated like an insignificant aside?" -- YES

    "Does the public not feel that he's relevant anymore?" -- YES, and the low ratings show that.


    Why say he should be apart of the competition when his show will be gone by the end of the year?

  • Sonja Little | June 6, 2014 7:42 PM

    I say to you... You are just a hater... Hall's rating is not that low and he the best thing going on TV at Late Night... He the only man who really went up agenst Mr. Johnny Carson on Late Night in the 80's & 90's... You my .... need to wake up.

  • Bforreal | February 19, 2014 9:02 PMReply

    I don't blame him for feeling annoyed and probably pissed. I'm glad he spoke out. I'm not his biggest fan, but I'm still glad he called out the racist b.s. for what it is. Good for him!

  • DoBetter | February 19, 2014 8:23 PMReply

    Typo in your headline

  • Donella | February 19, 2014 4:57 PMReply

    Arsenio was right for standing up, not only for himself, but for his crew. He has a brand and livelihoods to promote and protect. He did the right thing in establishing The Arsenio Hall Show as one of the big boy late night players when news media tries MORE THAN ONCE to pretend he doesn't exist.

  • elizabeth | February 19, 2014 4:55 PMReply

    Arsenion fans, lets flood CW with Arsenio viewers and not watch the other late nighters. This sends the message loud and clear.

  • Reinaldo | February 19, 2014 3:58 PMReply

    Censorship works in many ways.

  • Edwina | February 19, 2014 2:25 PMReply

    I'm not an Arsenio Hall fan. But by all means he should be included when talking late night talk shows and I don't fault him at all for reminding the powers that be of that fact. Isn't he bringing you a late-night talk show? This is just like BEST MAN HOLIDAY being completely left off of the mainstream media's holiday movie list. One sure-fire way to continue being ignored is to suffer in silence and allow it. Just ask MLK. There's a lot of room between making people aware of your presence and going Kanye.

  • ChgoSista | February 19, 2014 2:05 PMReply

    Hang in there, Arsenio. Work out some kinks, but hang in there, bro...

  • Franco | February 19, 2014 2:01 PMReply

    I understand wanting to be included in the list of other Late night hosts, because this in turn boosts your popularity and drives advertisers to spend money during your show. But complaining about not being listed is like being upset you weren't invited to the "cool kid party". Focus on your brand and your audience and not be concerned if people are talking about you or not. Arsenio sounds like Kanye now.

  • Joeseline | February 19, 2014 2:20 PM

    Kanye can do that. He's a legend. Arsenio too.

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