Black History Month 20 for 20: Arsenio Hall - The Host with the Most
Monday January 30th I was shooting the shit on Twitter as usual, and turned my attention to the love I have for Master P. My friend Courtney with a K inspired me to start this series (as you can see below). For every weekday in February, I will profile Black persons in celebration of Black History Month. #BHM20for20 Why only 20? Y’all too busy sinning on the weekend to read (I’m joking but not really). Thank you Kourtnee.
“Freeze, you diseased rhinoceros pizzle!” – Semmi to armed robber (Samuel L. Jackson)
Before I begin: There has NEVER been a Blacker or funnier film in the history of this planet than Coming to America, and I don’t trust any Black people who disagree (Black New England Patriots fans). I just had to get that out the way in case anybody needed a reminder. In this Eddie Murphy led film, Arsenio Hall played Prince Akeem’s (Eddie Murphy) sidekick, Semmi, as well as, Morris (barber), Reverend Brown & a nightclub patron in drag. Hall’s performance was so good, that I honestly had no clue he was Morris or Reverend Brown until I saw the end credits.
Coming to America would not have worked without Arsenio Hall because can you honestly imagine anyone yelling like Semmi when King Jaffe Joffer (James Earl Jones) knocked on their apartment door? Who else could have delivered the sermon to Lisa McDowell (Shari Headley aka my 1st girlfriend)? “…Cuz he helped Joshua fight that battle of Jericho, yes! He helped Daniel get out the lion’s den, yes! He helped Gilliiiiigaaan get of the island!” NOBODY could have delivered that line as well as Arsenio. Also, how many people do you know named Arsenio? That goes to show you that he’s 1 of 1. Nobody on earth could have delivered the iconic line, “His momma named him Clay, ima call him Clay.” Why is it iconic? We still use that line to describe things & people till this very day, 29 years later; that is legendary influence. Remember when they were passing the collection plate at the Miss Black Awareness pageant? Morris dropped a chicken bone in the plate; how real was he? Look at the quote I started this article with; Arsenio as Semmi cocked the shotgun on the legend Samuel L. Jackson when he delivered that incredible threat. How you call a nigga a rhinoceros pizzle?
In Harlem Nights, Arsenio played a sensitive thug who couldn’t let the chopper fly without tears coming down his eyes while looking for revenge. While it was only a bit role, Arsenio made the most of his screen time. However, it was hosting The Arsenio Hall Show that cemented Arsenio’s legacy.
I knew who Jay Leno & David Letterman were; I just never watched their shows because Arsenio Hall existed. A Black man on late-night television was incredible for me to see as a kid. I remember trying to stay up late to see who was going to be on Arsenio (keep in mind this is pre-Google) and I would sneak into my older cousins’ room to watch some of the show on a school night. When Friday came around, wasn’t any curfew, so I was hyped to get to watch Arsenio with his fly ass suits, and the longest pointer finger in the history of hands say, YES!” The music, the colorful Hip-Hop, “urban” influenced style of show was a beautiful representation of US. Arsenio would come oout pumping his fist with the dog pound, and every single last one of us were pumping our fist in front of the TV while saying, “woof woof woof woof” (I thought is was woot & Kourtnee thought it was roof; we were both wrong). Arsenio would have, “Things that make you go hmmm?” and have a section of people who always had some sort of issue like, “People who pour the milk before the cereal and don’t even have bowls”, always SOMETHING random, and funny. The Arsenio Hall Show felt like our home because we let him in ours every weeknight, and saw OUR stars in a light we didn’t get to see them outside of what they do. Arsenio’s show got so fucking hot that it became a place that anybody on a press run would have to come stop by, and promote because they knew the minority, specifically Black dollar was to be had if marketed to Arsenio’s audience.
I was legit sad when Arsenio’s show ended, and he popped up on Chappelle’s Show which was really cool because Dave Chappelle had been a guest on Arsenio’s show in 1993, in one of his first television appearances. I would always pose the question on Twitter, asking for the new Arsenio Hall, and then The Arsenio Hall Show was rebooted but didn’t have the impact it had in years past; no fault of Arsenio’s. I just feel as if too much time had passed between the original & now because most younger people didn’t have a clue who he was. “That’s the guy from Coming to America, right?” That’s an actual question I had to answer, and that actually mad me sad. Arsenio Hall is a legend that deserves more love, and respect from us because in a day & age where we are still fighting for representation, nobody represented for us on TV like Arsenio. Thank you Arsenio! *pumps ✊🏽 & barks*
Next up, I highlight a Black woman who fought for her identity thru her writing.