The Arsenio Hall Show, which debuted in 1989 was, at one time, appointment viewing for young audiences. This was thanks not only to Hall’s charm and the star power of his guests and musical acts, but because of the show’s relative unpredictability. While most late night shows rely on giving you exactly what you expect, The Arsenio Hall Show depended on surprising moments: candidate Bill Clinton playing the sax; a loud protest by Queer Nation and Hall’s impassioned response; Michael Jackson making a rare cameo appearance.
Best of all in this respect were his interviews. As the comedian Paul Scheer—who recently began re-enacting Arsenio interviews word-for-word—explained to Splitsider last week, there are specific reasons why Hall’s interviews were consistently better and less predictable than his rivals’:
"Number one, he is the only talk show host that I feel, and whether or not it's true, was also out with the celebrities that he was interviewing. I feel like it's been pretty much well documented that Conan and David Letterman and Leno, they're not out and about. But it appears to me that Arsenio was 100 percent in that mold. Like he would say, "You were at the club last night and you said blah blah blah," and they're like, "Oh yeah, I did say that." ... And you notice that on Arsenio, he never has cards. Every talk show host has cards with questions and stuff like that. Arsenio never had them. So I don't think even he knows where the interview is going. He's just going to ask questions he finds interesting. Like, he's going to ask Tupac Shakur, "Now, is cocaine out? Cocaine is out, right?”