Comedian Paul Scheer on the Return of 'The Arsenio Hall Show'
I'm a huge Arsenio Hall fan. I go way back. I was watching Arsenio when it wasn't even The Arsenio Hall Show, it was The Late Show on Fox and he was guest-hosting for Joan Rivers. I remember being blown away that a talk show host could wear sweaters and leather pants to work (I still can't pull off that combo). I made VHS tapes of my favorite Arsenio interviews and saved them for posterity. I'm so much of a Arsenio fan, that I recently did a web series on JASH called, "The Arscheerio Paul Show," where I recreated some of the more bizarre interviews Arsenio did on his 1990s talk show word for word. For that project, I sifted through hours of footage of his talk show and now, I think it's safe to say that I'm more than a fan: I'm the world's foremost Arsenio Hall expert. So naturally I'm the perfect choice to review the premiere of Arsenio's brand-new talk show. Actually scratch that, it's not really "brand new," it's kind of the exact same thing and that's fine by me.
Let's put it this way: If you were in a horrible car accident in 1994 and fell into a coma that lasted about 20 years and then just woke up yesterday and were immediately asked to watch The Arsenio Hall Show, you would be weirded out that your doctors were asking you to do such a thing given your condition, but you would not be disappointed. As a matter of fact, you might be comforted because everything is pretty much the same. The theme song is the same, the set is the same, even the guests — Snoop Dogg, Chris Tucker, Paula Abdul — are the same. The only thing noticeably missing was "The Dog Pound." We went for 60 minutes with nary a "WUFF! WUFF!" And that's not cool with me. That's like going to a Robin Thicke concert and not hearing "Blurred Lines." But I'll let Arsenio slide because, aside from that, he did everything you wanted. He did the hits. He didn't reinvent himself, he just dusted himself off and went back to work.
As an Arsenio expert, I'm impressed. For a guy who hasn't been doing this in two decades, Arsenio didn't even break a sweat. Is it possible that he has been doing this show for the last 20 years but it just wasn't televised until last night?
Now there are some staples to a classic Arsenio show, and you're probably wondering if last night had them. I'll happily answer those questions.
Did Arsenio wear a fake beard in a comedy sketch?
Did Arsenio say, "Let's get busy!"
You know it!
Were their awkward moments with celebrities?
Hell yeah. You tell me how the show will top Abdul stopping a comedy bit cold for a heartfelt speech, and ultimately coming to tears while trying to steal a plastic butt from Arsenio's 1990s time capsule. (Yes, you read that right. That's something that happened.)
Was Eddie Murphy brought up?
Yes, and we saw a sneak peek of his new music video with Snoop (and that alone was worth the price of admission).
Did Snoop give Arsenio monogrammed slippers?
Yes. That's not a ‘90s staple bit it's just something I needed to mention.
One of my favorite things about Arsenio is that he's the only talk show host I know of that doesn't use index cards to help guide an interview. He seemingly is going off the cuff trying to find something interesting in the moment, which is the most refreshing thing he brings to the table — because there is no guarantee that it's going to be a solid interview. But when it's good it's great. Don't believe me? Just Google, "Arsenio Hall and Vanilla Ice." And even when they don't find that "nugget" it's still pretty entertaining to watch. For example last night's interview with Chris covered a lot of ground but the only thing I took away from it is that Tucker thinks everything is, "Great!" (simply because said that about 600 times). Arsenio interviews like a friend trying to catch up at a party. It feels more like Dick Cavett than Jay Leno, and I like it. He also doesn't overbook, so he can really spend time with his guest. Hopefully it will stay like that.
Arsenio opened the show with the musical guest last night, which might be another way he is setting himself apart from all the other talk shows out there. Back in the day Arsenio had on a diverse group of acts from N.W.A. to Mariah Carey's first-ever TV appearance. So if he keeps himself on the pulse of culture and music he might be introducing America to the actors, musicians, and comedians that no one knows yet. That's a big task, but if last night is any indication Arsenio has the energy for it.
Now it's always a tough proposition to judge the first of anything. For the most part, the pilot of a TV show isn't as good as the rest of the series, and the first episode of a talk show can be even worse. I thought Arsenio came out swinging. But if you watched last night and you weren't into it, I'd say give Arsenio another chance in a week and see what he's up to then. He might not win the late-night war, but he might wind up doing something truly different. That means you're going to have more interviews like the classic ones where Andrew Dice Clay cried or Tupac Shakur told Arsenio why he refuses to take an AIDS test (Yes, both happened and are on YouTube).
Watching Arsenio's show really makes me think that Arsenio didn't treat this show like a comeback, he's treating it like America just forgot what channel he's been on and now we found him again. He's going to keeping doing the show he knows how to do best: his own.
Now obviously this is just my opinion, so I went to Twitter and asked people to tweet their impressions of the show at me using the hashtag #Doggpound2013. Here's what they said:
@SPORTZDAD 74 – "Takes me back to my childhood."
@27Suns – "Mother F*&ker doesn't age!"
@Anthony Y – "20 minutes into the show I don't get this show at all!"
@JakeFogelnest – "I was almost convinced that if I switched over to Leno, Bobcat Goldthwait would be lighting Leno's couch on fire."
@ChrisAschman – "If this Snoop appearance is how this show is going to be and not just calling in a favor; we are in for a treat"
@MyGeekTime – "chick announcer is kinda weak, good monologue except for some lame bits...time capsule bit 50/50...GREAT SET"
@SueHopkins8 –"Enjoying it! Glad he's back."
Oh and I forgot one thing. Tara Reid was on the show. Arsenio is back and back is beautiful!
Paul Scheer is a comedian and actor who can currently be seen on FXX's The League, Adult Swim's NTSF:SD:SUV:: and webseries Burning Love, and followed on Twitter, @paulscheer.
Here's a look at Scheer's ArScheerio Paul show, costarring Alison Brie as Madonna and Adam Pally as Rosie O'Donnell: