It took Arsenio Hall five years from the day he first decided to try and make a comeback on late-night TV until the day a company — in this case, CBS — said yes to the idea.
Among those who encouraged him to go for it: Sean “Diddy” Combs and Michael Jackson.
Arsenio told the story to Oprah Winfrey when the two sat down recently for an interview at The Comedy Store, the L.A. comedy club. The interview will be seen this coming Sunday night (Oct. 20) on “Oprah’s Next Chapter,” 9 p.m. (8c) on OWN.
Hall, 57, is an apt subject for this show, in which, generally speaking, Winfrey seeks out personalities to interview who are currently in a transitional phase of their lives. In Hall’s case, his “next chapter” is his return to late-night TV after almost 20 years away.
“I was a little nervous because it took me so long to get to the moment,” he said of his first day back on the air in September.
“It was a very hard idea to sell, but I went everywhere with this,” he confided to Oprah, who expressed surprise that TV companies were so resistant to the idea of building a new show around him.
“Really?” she said incredulously. “So how long was the process of this, of trying to get people to notice, trying to get people to say yes and then finally a yes came from CBS?”
“Gosh, about five years,” Arsenio said. To which Oprah exclaimed, “Five years?!”
Then Arsenio told her about a party he attended five years ago at the estate of a southern California supermarket magnate where Michael Jackson and Diddy were among the guests. Arsenio said both superstars were very encouraging when he mentioned that he’s thinking of getting back into the late-night game.
“Michael was like [and here Hall affectionately mimicked Jackson's soft, high voice], ‘You should have never left’!”
“I know he’s watching,” Hall said of Jackson, pointing heavenward.
Oprah also asked Arsenio about his relationships with other late-night hosts — particularly David Letterman and Jay Leno. Hall is a frequent guest on Leno’s “Tonight Show,” and he was a guest on Letterman’s “Late Show” just a short time before the debut of the new “Arsenio Hall Show” last month.
“You know what? Jay is a friend, but Dave is a huge influence on me,” Hall said of the two. “He was one of my heroes. And to know that he didn’t hate me, and invited me on his show to announce my show that would overlap his by a half-hour was a great honor.”