September 10, 2013 7:06am PT by Hilary Lewis
Arsenio Hall Returns to Late Night With Help From Paula Abdul and Jay Leno (Video)
Arsenio Hall returned to late night on Monday, nearly 20 years after his eponymous talk show aired its last episode, and he brought out some old friends to help him make his comeback.
"Leave it to the first black late-night host to take 19 years off work and come back here and expect my job to still be here waiting for me," Hall joked in the monologue of the first episode of his syndicated series, Arsenio.
Fellow early '90s icon Paula Abdul was a surprise guest on what Hall said was the "biggest night of [his] life."
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The former pop star walked out as Hall was going through a time capsule he said he buried after his last show and offered her support as he began his new late-night gig.
"There are so many things to be grateful for, and I'm grateful for you, for your loyal friendship, your amazing unique talent and your dedication to everything that truly matters," she said. "Really, I'm so proud of you. You've done something that no one's ever done before or let alone even tried to come back 20 years and step back into this spotlight. It's really inspiring."
"I know I'm speaking for millions: We've all missed you so much," she said as the crowd started woofing.
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Abdul also had some fun with a more recent acquaintance: her American Idol nemesis Simon Cowell.
After Hall showed off the "prosthetic butt [she] wore in her 'Opposites Attract' video," she held it in front of her face and said she's figured out what her Halloween costume will be: "I'm going as Simon Cowell."
Abdul also wondered if, now that he's working again, that means he'll be moving out of her pool house.
But Hall had other concerns during his cold open, during which he was shown lying down on a couch, like he was visiting a therapist.
"It's such a great time in my life; I'm coming back to late night. I should be excited; I should be happy. Instead I'm filled with anxiety all the time," he said. "But I keep telling myself, 'Do a good show every night, write funny jokes, work really hard' and then I'll get to No. 1 and once I'm at No. 1, I should be able to stay in late night forever if I want to. I mean, that makes sense doesn't it?"
The camera then panned out to reveal that he'd been talking to Jay Leno, who deadpanned, "Yeah, good luck with that. Let me know how that works out for you."
A lot has changed in late night since Hall's last show, but the host showed he still knows how to have fun with his guests, dancing around with guest Chris Tucker before their interview.
Hall's new show is a co-production between CBS Television Studios and Tribune Broadcasting. Arsenio airs at 10 and 11 p.m. on more than 200 stations nationwide, including CW affiliates in L.A. and New York.
Hall has a star-studded guest list for his first week, including Magic Johnson, Mark Harmon and Ice Cube.