Arsenio Hall knew he wanted to have a career in entertainment since he was 12 years old. Growing up in Cleveland, Ohio, Hall dreamed that someday he would become a talk show host. He would spend his days pretending to interview celebrities on a stage he created himself in his basement.
In 1976, Hall graduated from Kent State University with a degree in speech communication, becoming the first member in his family to attend college.
He then moved to Chicago to pursue a career in the world of entertainment; performing standup comedy acts in comedy clubs. Hall’s humor attracted the attention of jazz singer Nancy Wilson, who discovered him performing at a Chicago comedy club and hired him as the MC for her Chicago show.
As word spread of his talent, he began to open for other famous performers including Tina Turner, where he was able to impress some network executives. He later began appearing on ABC’s Half Hour Comedy Hour, then substituted for Joan Rivers on The Late Show with Joan Rivers.
In 1989, Hall’s dream came true and The Arsenio Hall Show was born, making him the first Black man to host his own talk show.
The Arsenio Hall Show was especially popular with a younger audiences, thanks to his unique interviewing style and popular catchphrases like: “Let’s get busy,” shout that he began every show with; “Give it up for …” his intro for each guest; and “Make you want to say hmmmmm,” a statement of confusion about things and situations.
Guests like Earvin “Magic” Johnson, Bill Clinton, Diana Ross, Jesse Jackson, Al Sharpton and many more were featured on his show.
The show ended after a five year run when Hall said he wanted to explore other creative opportunities and raise a family. Hall continued to appear in a number of movies including “The Proud Family Movie” (2005), “Black Dynamite” (2009) and this year’s “Coming 2 America,” the sequel to his standout role in the original “Coming to America” (1988).