The Origins of The Arsenio Hall Show’s ‘Woof! Woof!’

One of the biggest mysteries of late-night TV isn’t actually such a mystery after all. 

Fans of The Arsenio Hall Show—which ran from 1989 to 1994 and was subsequently revived from 2013 to 2014—had a ruff reputation. The show’s audience was known for greeting the host not with an enthusiastic “woot, woot,” but instead with a celebratory (and slightly disconcerting) “woof woof.” 

Yes, the crowds used to literally bark at Hall. The section of the crowd that sat behind the band was even nicknamed “The Dog Pound,” and the audience members would enthusiastically bark whenever the host acknowledged them.

“Fans spend hours waiting for a chance to wave their fists in the air (“Arseniooooo!”) and bark like dogs (“woof! woof! woof! woof!”) on national TV,” the San Francisco Chronicle reported in 1989.

If you’ve ever wondered what was up with all that barking, you can now rest easy. It turns out that there’s actually a pretty simple explanation behind the bizarre practice. In an interview with Yahoo! News in 2013, Hall explained the origins of the tradition.

Hall is from Cleveland, which is home to the NFL team The Browns. Fans of the team are coined “the dogs”—so naturally, they bark whenever they cheer at games. At his very first show, Hall encouraged the audience to bark for him, seeing it as a way to honor his hometown.

“People from Cleveland either go and take their talents to South Beach, or they don’t talk about it after they’re famous,” Hall told Yahoo! News. “I always wanted to talk about being from Cleveland. I’m proud of being from Cleveland. I took my bark with me.”

While unconventional, the barking made one Arsenio Hall guest in particular feel right at home. In a 1989 episode, Muppets creator Jim Henson introduced the crowd to Rowlf the Dog, who was delighted to find out that the audience spoke his language. “That’s dog talk!” Rowlf said, barking back at the crowd cheerfully.

So, there you have it: a paw-fectly good explanation. Woof woof!

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