Review: Arsenio Hall, “Smart & Classy” on Netflix

“One great thing about being old and rich is you can do what you want to do!” That’s Arsenio Hall telling “TMZ Live” why money is making him an even BETTER comic — because he can do all the risky material he wants without the fear. “Comics are supposed to push the envelope and stretch that edge as far as you can,” Hall says … “That’s what creates great comedy. The great ones like Richard Pryor didn’t allow censors and critics stop him from doing what was in his heart.”

On Netflix, though? He’s just like every other guy in comedy in 2019 who complained about not being able to say what they want, despite getting paid to do just that.

One thing that does continue to separate Arsenio from the rest? He has the stature and longevity to have perspective on the crazy arcs of some of our biggest celebrities. As I wrote in Decider last year:

It all brings us to “Mr. Cosby,” though, and Arsenio says now, after enjoying the fact that invoking the Cos by name has split the room: “You know what I’ve had to do, I’ve had to separate the artist from the man, you know. I mean, the artist has done so much for the black image on television. And he made me laugh as a kid. And he’s given so much money to black colleges. I’ve had to separate Dr. Huxtable from Dr. Fuxtable, is what I’m saying. That’s what I’ve had to do. Everybody has to handle it in their own way.”

Arsenio has enough perspective to bring some weight to his handling of Cosby’s crimes and how it taints the legend’s legacy. He smartly reminds us that he personally knows some of the women who accused Cosby of sexually assaulting or raping them, and singles out Beverly Johnson for jokes because of how she managed to escape Cosby’s home. Not so smart nor classy, however, are Arsenio’s jokes at the expense of Andrea Constand, the one Cosby victim who successfully took the comedian to trial, choosing to focus on her looks and her sexual orientation. Why do that? Perhaps Arsenio reveals an answer himself when he later talks about how America’s black community has so few heroes to begin with, that sometimes makes it tougher to let go when their heroes turn bad. He illustrates that point further with bits about Tiger Woods and O.J. Simpson.

On the other hand, Arsenio also jokes about siding with protestors against the Washington NFL team for not changing its name and mascot logo, and makes fun of himself for his dubious honor as the one and only black winner of Donald Trump’s Celebrity Apprentice.

Read my full review on

Sean L. McCarthy

Editor and publisher since 2007, when he was named New York's Funniest Reporter. Former newspaper reporter at the New York Daily News, Boston Herald and smaller dailies and community papers across America. Loves comedy so much he founded this site.

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