Having hosted a nightly talk show for six years (1989-94), standup comedian Arsenio Hall is itching for a comeback. “I know who I am: a standup who loves hosting. And that’s probably what I should go do,” says Hall, who thinks there might be room for him even though the field is too crowded. “You don’t need a guy like me, but that doesn’t stop me from sitting at home and having a monologue joke and a guest I’d like to book,” he admits.
For the last decade, Hall’s priority has been his son Arsenio Jr., now 11. “It wasn’t my plan to be a single father. It was very hard. It’s a learning curve,” he says. His son has helped him teach comedy camp classes, but even so Hall hopes he doesn’t follow him into standup. “It’s such a tough business. I want him to be a doctor,” he explains.
Hall, who grew up idolizing Johnny Carson and Ed Sullivan, to whom he pays tribute in PBS’ Ed Sullivan Comedy Special, premiering August 6, continues to work the standup circuit, but finds more hecklers on the Internet. “Twitter is like anyone can jump in your car, say something and jump out at 140 characters. People will say things that they wouldn’t say to you man-to-man in a mall,” says the comic, noting that the controversy over Tracy Morgan’s comments about the LGBT community at a June 3 comedy gig spread because of Facebook. “I’d seen him do the bit for years and nobody was bothered by it,” says Hall, who nevertheless thinks Morgan was “absolutely right to apologize.” Hall found himself self-censoring in the incident’s aftermath. “That week I was at the Comedy Store, and was really careful and nervous and afraid to say anything,” he says. “I don’t want to be that way.”
The Ed Sullivan Comedy Special airs August 6 on PBS (check your local listings).