Arsenio Hall and Clay Aiken entered the Celebrity Apprentice finale on Sunday night as BFFs. But only one would exit a champion. When all was said and done, a cacophony of woofing enveloped America as dog pounds from coast to coast erupted in chants and cheers upon the naming of Arsenio Hall as the new Celebrity Apprentice. What was his key to victory? What happened with Aubrey O’Day at the finale? How does he feel about now incurring the eternal wrath of angry Claymates? And what are his post-Apprentice plans? We talked with the winner on Monday morning to get the full scoop.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: It seems congratulations are in order.
ARSENIO HALL: What an exciting feeling! And I know everybody thinks orgasm trumps everything, but nothing trumps this!
Have you slept at all?
Yeah. You know what, I figured part of my first duty as Celebrity Apprentice was to not go out and get drunk, and wake up bright-eyed and bushy-tailed to show him that he made the right choice. The worst thing I could do would be to wake up in the back of Scores.
Here’s the thing on everyone’s mind this morning: Do you find Lisa Lampanelli attractive?
[laughs] You know what? When you’re in a moment like that, that is the toughest question you could get. But you know, I really do believe what I said. It probably sounds like a bunch of crap, but have you ever known a really, really classically hot chick who is an a–hole and because of that, you don’t find them quite as pretty? Well in the opposite way, there is nothing cooler than a woman whom you respect intellectually, and is more than just eye candy, and I got to work with her. I know people have a lot of problems with her comedic politics, but she is one of the smartest, most fun women to be around. I do think that brains and intellect in a woman is attractive. By the way, that was a tough question with Dayana Mendoza sitting one seat away! But there are many elements of beauty. And by the way, I’m not Denzel Washington my damn self.
We know that the winner of Celebrity Apprentice is determined by more than just the final task. But as far as the final task goes, I’m gonna tell you how I scored the three elements. I thought you had the better ad, I thought Clay had the better party, and the variety show I scored a draw, because for me it really depends on whether you like comedy or music. How would you score those three elements?
Well, I’m pretty much right down the line with you, except I went TV aficionado on him. The one thing that everyone knows who produces television is music never does as well as comedy. If we’re booking tonight, and you tell me I can do two segments with Seinfeld or that new hot record by that new hot person that might not be around next year, for some reason a larger number of people, always appreciate comedy versus music. It’s really hard to garner ratings with music, and so that was always my argument. Music never plays on TV the way that I think each individual fan of a genre of music or group kind of gets.
I thought putting Magic in the ad was a great strategic move, because not only did you have the name and face of the organization talking about it, but you essentially added one of the most famous people in the planet onto your team, which I have to assume you knew would impress Trump.
Yeah. I knew that, and obviously that was my idea. And it sounded like a great idea until we had that legendary Q-tip commercial with Magic looking the wrong way and a close-up on his ear. I was scared to death at that moment.
Did you and Aubrey interact at all at the finale?
No. We didn’t interact at all. It was a strange atmosphere, because Lisa Lampanelli, for instance… I’m sure I’m not her favorite person in the world, she competed against me a lot, but the game was over. I hugged Lisa, I shook her hand, I talked to her husband, we laughed. Aubrey came in a whole different way. I stayed away. There were all these bodyguards and it was kind of crazy. I just stayed away and I left it alone.
And she didn’t come over and congratulate you or anything?
Oh, no. As a matter of fact, she hugged Clay standing next to me, and then walked away. I think that was a little personal kind of message to me. But the deal is, we came, we fought, we wanted to win, and the game is over now. And by the way, I’m not a guy who has ever gone after anyone. I won’t attack you, but I will defend myself. One of the things that I did when I came to this town to play this game, Piers Morgan told me to read everything Donald has written so you can have all these quotes in your head. And one of the quotes that I had, after Aubrey had done a lot of things to me, and I even gave the egregious example on The View of things that NBC couldn’t even show you that she did! The legendary black penis collection that she had. And the bottom line is, I had read in one of Trump’s books, how he deals with enemies or people who mistreat him repeatedly. And I won’t quote him, but he shuts you down. He goes after you. He crushes his enemies, and when he asked me in the board room why I approached Aubrey in the way that I did, I said I am sick of a lot of things, I described a lot of those things to him, some of them couldn’t be aired, but the bottom line is, I tried to handle projects and problems the way Donald Trump does. I think I won because — and this is going to sound strange to America — but I think he sees a little bit of himself in me. I am the Nubian Trump without the wallet!
I want to ask you about the finale. You and Clay sang “Lean On Me” together. Now, by performing a song, isn’t that sort of like giving him home court advantage? Was there any talk of us witnessing the comedy stylings of Clay Aiken?
I told him, “If this goes really bad, and you win as a result of it, you’re coming with me to Caroline’s tonight.” When the cameras would go off, me, Dee and Clay would often sing, and that was our music, and one day as the contest got deeper, Clay said, “We should do a duet or something.” And the reason he said it was not even for the show. We thought about doing something and selling it on iTunes to bring more money into our charities after the game was over, and then the idea ended up on the air.
The upside is, you won and brought in $250,000 for your charity. The downside is that you now have an angry mob of Claymates after you!
Oh my gosh. You know what, there is nothing worse than an angry Claymate. But the bottom line is, what Claymates have to know: It’s a game, it’s a competition and nobody loves their boy as much as I do. Nobody respects him as much as I do. As a matter of fact, we’re Batman and Robin. We came to this town to win this game and we started talking, and I realized how much we were alike. And we said, you know what? Let’s create an alliance, and let’s make sure at the end it’s me and you. We talked about last night way back last year and saw it as a great story and as a great mission to take on, and that’s what teamwork and leadership is all about.
Let’s talk about your next mission. You mentioned you wanted to get a new talk show. Have you tried chatting up Apprentice producer Mark Burnett at all?
You know what? Mark is someplace right now either writing another Bible or doing a movie about one. I’m not sure exactly. I got a text the other day, and I think he used Siri. But it was something about the Bible and hey, as much as I owe Mr. Trump, I owe Mark Burnett. Trump built this bridge for me to walk over back into the business, and Mark Burnett… I mean, it’s a masterful show. It’s so well done. It gave me incredible exposure in a major prime-time vehicle, so I owe him a lot. But I’ll tell you whom I really owe also. There was a time when I left Paramount, I wrote them a letter and said, “If one day I have a kid and a family and I find a balance in my life that I’m looking for, I would like to come home, maybe. Who knows?” And there’s one guy over there, who called me last week and he said, “Don’t forget you promised me that you might come home, one day, and I’m still over here.” And the bottom line is, if Paramount wants me, I will go right back there and pick up where I left off, and I think that would be a fun story, because they made me the guy that you know.
Well, Arsenio, welcome to the very exclusive Celebrity Apprentice winners club. Say hi to Bret Michaels and Joan Rivers for me.
I’m trying to smell the roses. It’s raining out, so it’s kind of hard, but I know my cousin, who died of AIDS, is in heaven looking down. I worked my ass off to be here. I’ve been number two so many times in my life, whether it’s number two to Mr. Carson or number two in a movie to Mr. Murphy. Today, I am finally number one.
Don’t forget to read Dalton’s recap of the Celebrity Apprentice finale. Also, enjoy our wild and untamed podcast interview with Arsenio Hall and Clay Aiken. And for more reality ramblings all year round, follow Dalton on Twitter @DaltonRoss.