Could hosting the VMAs be the most unrewarding job in Hollywood?
by Tanner Stransky
Could hosting the VMAs be the most unrewarding job in Hollywood? In light of last night’s questionable performance by E!’s late-night queen Chelsea Handler, I started thinking about how few VMA emcees have been widely lauded for their performances over the years. Just peruse this list of past hosts. Are any of these people – ranging from Bette Midler (yes!) and Dan Akroyd to Dennis Miller (twice!) and Ben Stiller – remembered for doing an exceptionally good job?
Sure, a handful, like Jimmy Fallon and Chris Rock, may be remembered with some level of fondness. But unlike, say, the Oscars or the Emmys – where, for example, Steve Martin and Neil Patrick Harris have won rave reviews for their respective recent hosting stints – the very nature of the VMAs dictates that the lion’s share of the morning-after buzz will focus on outrageous stunts or musical performances, and not on the host. Handler seemed to be aware of this conundrum last night, and it resulted in an unfortunate “look how craaaazy I can be!” vibe that downplayed her brash intelligence and felt inauthentic to boot.
Take the way Handler rubbed elbows with Ke$ha, who appeared at the show wearing a dress she claimed to have made out of trash bags. The connection between the pair is wholly emblematic of the vibe that the E! host emanated throughout the evening – which is to say that Handler, like Ke$ha, seemed to be pandering to the lowest common denominator, creating a front that didn’t feel the least bit real to eagle-eyed fans. Maybe Handler felt like that shtick would resonate with the younger MTV set, but it didn’t go over well with critics (like myself and everyone at publications from The Hollywood Reporter to the New York Times).
But it’s not all Handler’s fault that her performance didn’t come off as scintillating. No matter how good she was or was not, Handler wasn’t ever going to be the buzziest thing about the show. And she certainly worked hard to try to score laughs, donning Lady Gaga wear, getting into a hot tub with the Jersey Shore cast, and dropping a plethora of insensitive jokes. Even if she had stripped naked, though, it’s unlikely she ever could have matched the growing din about dueling songs by Taylor Swift and Kanye West; a presentation where Cher gave Lady Gaga, who revealed the name of her next album on stage, a Moon Man; or amazing performances by Florence + The Machine and Robyn.
Considering the challenges with such a gig, then, should Handler take all the blame for her misfire? And how will the poor reviews affect her career going forward? What say you, PopWatchers? Is it possible to do the VMAs proud as host? Do you think Chelsea did? Do you have a favorite host in VMA history? Sound off below!