Decades before Jimmy Fallon was challenging Betty White to a round of beer pong, Arsenio Hall was throwing a late night party of his own.
During its 1989-94 run, “The Arsenio Hall Show” changed the state of television with its embrace of R&B music, hipper guests and raucous studio audiences. Many believe the series’ success helped quicken Johnny Carson’s retirement.
Hall has kept busy since his groundbreaking program went off the air, winning Season 5 of “Celebrity Apprentice” and launching a reboot of his show that lasted only a year. He’s reliving his stand-up days with a tour that brings him to Rick Bronson’s House of Comedy at the Mall of America next weekend.
Hall chatted last week from his home in Los Angeles about the impact Prince had on his talk show, why he no longer speaks to Donald Trump and how Eddie Murphy finally signed off on a sequel to their 1988 hit movie “Coming to America.”
Q: What triggered your decision to return to stand-up?
A: I’ve always wanted to do it, but the longer you stay away, the wall of fear grows higher. I remember I went to see my buddy George Lopez a few years ago just to hang out and he was like, “Why don’t you get up and do five minutes?” I was like, “I can’t do five minutes!” Now you can’t get me off the stage. It’s funny how young comics were trying to get me to come back. They’re doing to me what I’m doing to Eddie right now. I keep bugging him that when the sequel to “Coming to America” comes out that we should hit the clubs. You want to share it. It’s like a great walleye restaurant with great walleye McNuggets; you want everyone to try them.
Q: Any trepidation about returning to the road?
A: I’ll be honest, I’m not crazy about travel. Since 9/11, you go to the airport and there are guys with machine guns taking your toenail clippers. You know how brothers like to travel with a big bottle of lotion? Security doesn’t like that. If I have to take a small bottle of lotion, that’s a deal-breaker for me.
Q: When you’re hosting a talk show, you’ve got all kinds of trappings to help you out like a band and a writing team. But in stand-up, you’re flying without a net.
A: When you’re taping in L.A., you’re reaching a lot of people very rapidly, but you’re also reading from a teleprompter and doing a joke about the Jonas Brothers when you kind of like the Jonas Brothers. You can get trapped in that game. TV can take you far away from where you are at as a humorist. Now it’s just me and the audience.
Q: Your three shows with Prince are legendary, including his 2014 appearance on the rebooted “Arsenio” show when he really opened up, maybe more so than he ever did for a TV interview. What do you remember from that episode?
A: Back in the early days, Prince used to give me a lot of rules and guidelines. He didn’t really talk to me then. He would say, “Why don’t you book Patti LaBelle while I change clothes?” And then we would talk about him rather than to him. But the last time, we got to do something different. He felt a lot different about television by then. We did prank phone calls. We talked about him cooking late at night. I’m glad I got to come back to TV because it made my Prince dossier complete.
Q: Why do you think he trusted you so much?
A: I think Prince knew my love for music, and he got my sense of humor. More importantly, he knew I loved show business and he loved show business. He would trip with me off the air in a way he wouldn’t do with other brothers. I remember going to see him at the Glam Slam in Los Angeles. After the show, he asked me where I was going. I said I was heading to an after-hours clubs, some dude’s house where there would be music. It wasn’t 100 percent legal. And he went with me. I mean, this was south of Wilshire, dog. It’s rough out there. But he trusted me in that, and he relinquished a lot of control.
Q: You spent a lot of time with the current president when you won “Celebrity Apprentice” in 2012. What do you know about him that may surprise people?
A: He thinks that people think he’s wearing a toupee. I would tell him, they don’t think your hair is fake. They just think you should change the look. We used to joke about him wearing cornrows. He’s mad at me these days. We had a conversation about the whole “birther” theory that didn’t go well. I haven’t talked to him since.
Hey, I want an apology from Omarosa. She rode me hard for not getting on the Trump train. Now I want to hear her apologize to me.
Q: You mentioned that you’re getting ready to do the sequel to “Coming to America.” What took so long?
A: Eddie. Here’s the thing. He never wanted to do a sequel. But about a year ago, he called me and said, “Let’s do number two.” I grabbed a Starbucks and came right over. They hired Kenya Barris, who created “Black-ish” and wrote “Girls Trip,” so they’re going to do it. I told Eddie we’re so old now, when we play the barbers we won’t even have to go into makeup.
Q: I don’t want to speak for the House of Comedy, but if you want to bring Eddie along to do warmup, I’m sure they won’t mind.
A: I can’t wait for Eddie to unleash again. Everybody wants to hear more about Scary Spice.