The ’90s are back (woof-woof) as Arsenio Hall returns to late-night

The comedian will be subbing for the vacationing Jimmy Kimmel for a few days

By Dennis Perkins

Arsenio Hall did plenty of material about nobody under 40 knowing who the hell he was in his guest-hosting gig on Monday’s Jimmy Kimmel Live. He needn’t have bothered, though, as the now 65-year-old former late-night host, comedian, and actor emerged to a chorus of appreciative barking from Kimmel’s returned live audience. Whether the show had installed a “Woof, woof, woof!” sign in place of the standard applause prompt or not, the groundbreaking talk show host greeted his wonted entrance chant (Wikipedia transcribes the sound as “Roo, roo, roo,” affirming that nobody should ever take the internet seriously) warmly, and reintroduced himself to the very changed (but still alarmingly white) late-night viewership with some familiar bits

.Hall, now sporting a by-necessity shaved head look (“Your haircut chooses you,” he joked) snapped his old flat-top hairstyle into existence for a time, although the necessity of standing awkwardly still so as to line the animated ’do hovering over his dome was more trouble than it was worth. He also updated his old, immortalized-in-song “Things that make you go, hmmm…” segment, ruminating on such 21st-century observational cues like Earth’s billionaires fleeing to outer space (sort of), meth-addicted fish, and those jeans that make you look like you peed yourself. Hall replaced the “Hmmm” with a “What the [ABC-deleted] f*#k?,” but everybody seemed to follow along just fine.

Hall did joke that, perhaps, that some of the audience (the white, under-40 part) might have thought they were watching the comedy stylings of “the owner of The Weather Channel.” Although, to be fair, the younger folks might have been among those who checked out the briefly-revived Arsenio Hall Show back in 2013. Not to mention all the Coming 2 America nostalgia-watchers out there, where Hall and pal Eddie Murphy dipped back into their shared past triumphs for some lukewarm laughs. (Hall did confirm that nostalgia only gets you so far, taking Kimmel’s cameras onto Hollywood Boulevard to ask some confused passers-by about the current “crisis in Zamunda.”) And even if first guest Jay Pharoah (whose new movie Resort To Love premieres on Netflix on July 29) did commit the unpardonable sin of breaking out the “been watching you since I was a kid” card, it was still nice to see Hall back on the late-night roost he ruled not all that long ago.