The comedian, who rose to fame with The Arsenio Hall show, now stars in Coming 2 America

By Mia McNiece
February 25, 2021 11:07 AM
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Before social media, Arsenio Hall says stars would use his popular late-night talk show to air their grievances, promote a project or share funny stories.

"I remember getting calls from Tupac saying, 'Hey, man, I got some problems going on. Can I come on and talk about them?' " says Hall. "I was Black Twitter." 

For more on Arsenio Hall, pick up this week's issue of PEOPLE on newsstands Friday.

The comedian, 65, stars in the highly anticipated sequel, Coming 2 America (on Amazon Prime March 5) with Eddie Murphy, 59. In the comedy, the duo reprise their roles as Prince Akeem and hist trusty friend Semmi who return to America to find Akeem's long-lost son (Jermaine Fowler). They re-team with original costars and join new ones, including Tracy Morgan, Leslie Jones and Wesley Snipes.

arsenio hall
Credit: Matt Sayles

Hall says he is proud that his late-night talk show, which launched in 1989, offered a safe space for artists to express themselves.

During its five-season run, Hall chatted with Bill Clinton, who stopped by when running for President and famously played the saxophone; Magic Johnson, who did his first interview with Hall after announcing he was HIV positive; and Mariah Carey, who made her TV debut on the show.

"I got to break a generation of music, everything from MC Hammer to Q-Tip," says Hall.

The show became a huge hit with its news-making guests and the audience's signature "woof, woof" chant and Hall made history becoming the first Black man to host and produce his own late-night talk show.

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Magic Johnson on The Arsenio Hall Show
| Credit: Everett

But, he says, the best part of the job was getting a chance to shine a light on others.

"There were no Black writers in the '90s, and I got to give guys jobs. My first intern was John Singleton, who went on to win an Oscar for Boyz n the Hood," he says. "Yes, I was able to send my son to college and live a good life, but show business is not what you did for yourself, but what did you do for other people."