BEST BETS: Arsenio Hall playing for laughs at Dover Downs

Actor, comedian and former talk show host Arsenio Hall brings his standup act to Dover Downs’ Rollins Center Sept. 22 at 9 p.m. (Submitted photo)

Whether you know him from his movie roles in “Coming to America” and “Harlem Nights,” his hit talk show, as the winner of the fifth season of “The Celebrity Apprentice or his current gig co-hosting the nationally syndicated Tom Joyner radio show on Mondays, Arsenio Hall has been in the entertainment consciousness for the last 30 years.

These days, he’s gone back to how it all started with standup comedy. He’ll bring his act to Dover Downs Hotel and Casino’s Rollins Center Sept. 22 at 9 p.m.

Despite his many incarnations throughout the years, Mr. Hall said standup has always been the thing closest to his heart.

“I think it’s because it’s how I got into the business,” he said during a Wednesday morning phone interview.

“As a kid, I was a magician. But I always knew I wanted to be an entertainer. I graduated from Kent State University and I’ve been around so long that there weren’t comedy clubs in every city like there are now. I went to Chicago to audition for Second City (comedy troupe) and try a club up there and I never turned back.”

He says the whole process of standup comedy is freeing.

“It’s definitely the most cathartic thing you can do comedically. The writers are working on a script for ‘Coming to America 2’ and Eddie (Murphy) and I were looking at the script and getting notes back from Paramount. I’m working on something right now for ABC and when you do television, you realize how controlled it is,” he said.

“But standing on that stage, I have an hour to myself where I’m the artist, producer, director and even the public relations guy. There are no lawyers and no standards and practices telling me what I can and can’t say. I can do anything I want, which I love.”

Unlike his early days of standup when he was a virtual unknown, Mr. Hall now has the luxury of hitting the stage as a known commodity.

“When I was a young man, I made a living on the road opening for people like Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones and The Pointer Sisters. People come to see those headliners and they think ‘Who is this?’ If I read your paper and saw ‘The Pointer Sisters’ and under it, it said ‘Arsenio Hall’ people thought that’s where the gig was,” he said with a laugh.

“It’s kind of cool to go out as a standup now when people know who you are. I’ll go to college towns and see dads with their sons and the dad will tell the son, ‘You gotta see this guy. This was my Jimmy Kimmel.’ So it’s a lot of fun.”

After his talk program “The Arsenio Hall Show” left the airwaves in 1994 after five seasons, Mr. Hall, 61, left public life to raise his son Arsenio Jr. He said he wanted a chance to do what his parents didn’t get to do with him.

“My mother worked two jobs and my father was a Baptist minister and back then, I don’t think parents knew the value of picking your kid up from school or knowing who their friends were or knowing what their favorite color was,” Mr. Hall said.

“I had the blessing of financial success to take years away and concentrate on fathering. We did every Ice Capades, circus, baseball, basketball and football game there was.”

He says his son, now 17 and in college, helps keep his standup routine relevant.

“So instead of talking about The Temptations, I can talk about Drake to stay hip,” he joked.

Because he has such a diverse audience who know him from a wide variety of projects, Mr. Hall says he covers the spectrum in his act.

“I love to talk about what’s current so I talk about everything from my son to DACA,” he said.

“What I read today, I’ll take out on stage tomorrow. Like I just read about a lady who jumped the White House gate and I’m thinking Donald Trump wants to build a wall? If you can’t keep a white woman away, how do you expect to keep El Chapo out?”

Calling himself a Republicrat, he says he doesn’t take one side of the political aisle.

“Whatever is funny, I talk about. I love to hit everyone. I try to be all over the place,” he said.

His 2012 experience on “The Celebrity Apprentice” brought him up close and personal with the current president of the United States. Initially he thought, President Trump’s candidacy was all an act.

“Back when I was on the show, he asked me what I thought and then after I won, he asked what I thought again,” Mr. Hall said.

“When he said he was going to run the first time and didn’t, I thought it was a publicity stunt for NBC and the show.

“But the next time, I knew he was going to run when I saw the journalist (dinner) the last year (Barack) Obama got to do standup. I know how much he doesn’t like Obama and if you looked at Trump, he just got shredded verbally. I knew then it was on. He was saying ‘I just gotta become president.’”

Looking back over his career, Mr. Hall said one of the aspects that makes him proudest is the amount of artists who made their debut on his talk show.

“You always look to do something special with the celebrity you are given and the limelight and that thing for me was giving that opportunity to others,” he said.

“I can remember (music executive) Tommy Mottola coming up to me in a restaurant saying I have a girl with me named Mariah Carey who you have to hear and I think she’d be good for your show. A month later, we had her booked.

“We broke Trisha Yearwood and M.C. Hammer. I got to do what the great jazz singer Nancy Wilson did for me. She pulled me out of Cleveland and brought me to Hollywood. I can remember M.C. Hammer giving me a demo record and introducing himself as Stanley.”

One of the signature features of his former talk show, which was revived for one season in 2013, was the Dawg Pound, a section of the audience who interacted with Mr. Hall with barks and fist pumps.

He said he still gets people doing that to him on a regular basis.

“Yeah that will probably never go away,” he said good-naturedly.

“When I was a kid, I was a Cleveland Browns fan and they had a section called the Dawg Pound and they would do all that stuff. So that’s where that came from.”

And as for that “Coming to America” sequel, Mr. Hall said fans of the original 1988 comedy can more than likely expect to see it on the big screen as early as next year.

“I think we’re probably going to make the movie. We got the original writers penning a second script. Eddie has the right of refusal on it but he likes the direction it’s going.

“There was a time when he didn’t want to do it because it’s one of his favorite movies and he wanted to leave it the way it was. He has seen so many sequels that bastardized the original with repetitive jokes. But he said ‘If I can have right of refusal for the script, let’s get one written and see what we think.’ I have a feeling that next year you’re going to see that old classic come back.

“I was joking with him the other day that we’re now old enough to play the barbers without the makeup.”

Tickets for Mr. Hall’s Dover Downs show can be purchased by visiting doverdowns.com or calling VIP Services at (800) 711-5882.

Prices range from $35 to $55.

Poker champs

Speaking of Dover Downs, The Dover Downs Hotel & Casino’s Poker Room hosted the seventh annual Delaware Poker Championship over Labor Day weekend. There were 281 entries and a total prize pool of over $134,000.

The winners played for 17 hours over the course of two days. The final table lasted for three hours with the lead changing hands dozens of times.

The final seven players agreed to chop the prize pool taking home approximately $12,000 each with the eventual winner receiving a much larger share.

Juergen Trager from Dagsboro, and Joseph Cashen from Severna Park, Md. battled for more than one hour with the chip lead moving back and forth every few hands. Eventually, Trager’s King-8 turned out to be the tournament’s winning hand when he made a full house with an 8 on the river.

The Delaware Poker Championship was just one of the nine major tournaments held over Labor Day Weekend. More than 1,500 players participated over the six days. Seven different champions were crowned.

For more information on tournaments, promotions and giveaways at Dover Downs Hotel & Casino’s Poker Room, visit doverdowns.com, or call (302) 857-3275.

The competitors at the Delaware Poker Championship’s final table at the Dover Downs Hotel & Casino Poker Room were, top row, from left, Joseph Cashen of Severna Park, Md; John Lecato, Jr. of Belle Haven, Va.; Brian Maness of Pocomoke, Md.; Juergen Trager of Dagsboro; and Amine Chabane of New York City. Bottom row, from left, Michele Shakra of Eden, Md.; Timothy Stump of Dover; Michael Holtz of Ocean City, Md.; Anthony Silva of Forest Hill, Md.; and Barbara Rogers of Lock Haven, Pa. (Submitted photo)

Postcard club show

As we told you last week, The DelMarVa Postcard Club’s fourth annual postcard show and sale is set for Saturday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Cheswold Volunteer Fire Company, 371 Main St.

Residents of Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey can browse through hundreds of thousands of postcards offered by more than a dozen postcard dealers at the club’s annual show.

Admission is $3. A free door prize drawing will be held on the hour.

Sip & Savor Saturday

Meals On Wheels Delaware’s Sip & Savor will take place Saturday at the Wild Quail Golf & Country Club in Wyoming from 6 to 9 p.m.

The casual party will include food provided by Kent County restaurants, a beer garden, a wine wall, photo booth, DJ from Authentic Entertainment, as well as a live and silent auction.

All proceeds benefit homebound seniors and provide essential funding for the Meals On Wheels programs provided by the Modern Maturity Center, CHEER, City Fare, Meals On Wheels Lewes Rehoboth and Newark Senior Center.

For tickets and more information, visit www.mealsonwheelsde.org.

Wheels & Wine Car Show

The First State Corvette Club is sponsoring the Wheels & Wine Car Show Sunday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. at the Pizzadili Vineyard & Winery, 1683 Peach Basket Road, Felton.

The show will benefit the Home of the Brave Foundation. The rain date is Sept. 24.

There will be 100 dash plaques, top 25 trophies, Best in Show, Most Club Participation and Home of the Brave Trophy as well as participant judging.

Registration closes at 11 a.m. Pre-registration is $10, day-of registration $15.

For more information, call Chatty at 302-678-9897 or Gordon at 302-538-5988.

Now Showing

New this weekend in theaters is the horror film “It,” the drama “9/11” and the Reese Witherspoon comedy-drama “Home Again.”

On DVD and download starting Tuesday is Tom Cruise in “The Mummy,” the animated “Captain Underpants” and the horror film “It Comes at Night.”

Reach features editor Craig Horleman at chorl@newszap.com

You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.