Hall was born in Alexandria, Virginia and grew up in Mecklenburg County, North Carolina. He is part Cherokee. Early in his career, he performed as a street comedian with a suitcase and stand, traveling the college circuit, and performing impromptu skits for gathering crowds.
Hall's first professional work was as a writer and performer on the American sketch comedy TV series Fridays from 1980 until 1982. After the end of Fridays, Hall co-wrote and starred in the satirical comedy series Not Necessarily the News from 1983 until 1990 where he coined the term "sniglet" and collected and published several volumes of books of them. Matt Groening has described him as the inspiration for Moe Szyslak from The Simpsons. He was also a regular on Saturday Night Live. In 1986, he had his own Showtime channel special, Vanishing America, which was turned into a book with the same title. He hosted a talk show during The Comedy Channel's 1990-91 season, titled Rich Hall's Onion World.
In the United States, he has appeared several times on American talk shows such as Late Show with David Letterman and Late Night with Conan O'Brien.