Comedian and actor Kevin Hart is set to host the VMAs on Thursday, following in the footsteps of such stars as Eddie Murphy, Chris Rock and Jimmy Fallon. Hart, 32, has amassed a lot of credits in recent years, including Modern Family, Think Like A Man and the last two Scary Movie movies, but the VMA gig promises to be a profile-raising assignment. Hart will be just the 15th person in VMA history to serve as the show's sole host.
Arsenio Hall hosted the show four times, more than anyone else. Chris Rock is second with three hosting gigs. Dennis Miller and Russell Brand each hosted twice.
Rock is easily the best host in the show's history. You could call him the Billy Crystal of the VMAs. Rock hosted in 1997, 1999 and 2003. (He graduated to hosting the Oscars in 2005.) Rock always came armed with material that was both funny and pointed.
In 1997, he made note of the massive sales rung up by that year's hottest act, Spice Girls, and said "10 million records sold, I can't find one person that will admit to buying one… Spice Girls are kind of like heroin. You know somebody's doing it, but nobody admits it."
That 1997 show aired just six months after The Notorious B.I.G. was shot to death, and about a year after 2Pac was killed. "Rap's out of control," Rock said. "We got the whole East Coast/West Coast thing, killing each other. What the hell is going on? They ain't had nothing like that in the old days. You never heard about Smokey Robinson shooting down the Temptations; Gladys Knight squashing out Patti LaBelle's eyes. No, you never had that."
Rock was even more pointed in the 2003 show, in which he mocked American Idol and its judges. "Paula Abdul judging a singer is like getting (quadriplegic) Christopher Reeve to judge a dance contest. It ain't right. It ain't right."
Rock and Miller both rose to fame on Saturday Night Live. Five other VMA hosts also got their starts on SNL: Dan Aykroyd, who co-hosted the first show in 1984; Eddie Murphy (1985); Dana Carvey (1992); Ben Stiller (1998); and Jimmy Fallon (2002).
Bette Midler was Aykroyd's co-host on the first show. They may sound like an unlikely pair (OK, they were an unlikely pair), but they were at the center of pop culture at the time. Aykroyd starred in Ghostbusters, which was the second highest grossing movie released in 1984. Midler was just five years removed from her Oscar-nominated performance as a Janis Joplin-inspired singer in The Rose.
Midler and Aykroyd made their entrance wearing metallic spacesuits, looking just like the silver Moonman trophies that are presented on the show.
Midler got off the best line: "Here I am standing in front of the hippest crowd in the history of the world and I look exactly like a baked potato."
Midler and Sean "Diddy" Combs are the only artists who are known primarily as music stars who have hosted the show. Combs hosted in 2005.
Roseanne Barr and Chelsea Handler are the only women to serve as sole hosts. Barr, who hosted in 1994, was the oldest host to that point. (She was 41 at the time.) Barr made note of her age in her host monologue: "It's a great honor to be the oldest woman ever on MTV—you know, besides Cher. And I think I'm the fattest woman who has ever been on MTV."
Dweezil Zappa, who turned 17 on the day of the 1986 show, is the youngest host or co-host in VMA history. Zappa co-hosted the 1986 and 1987 shows with fellow MTV VJs. Zappa, the son of rock legend Frank Zappa, one of two second-generation stars to host or co-host. The other is Ben Stiller, the son of comedy greats Jerry Stiller and Anne Meara.
Dennis Miller was the oldest host. He was 42 when he hosted for the second time in 1996.
Jamie Foxx hosted the 2001 show, which was telecast live from the Metropolitan Opera House in New York on Sept. 6, 2011, five days before the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.
Several other hosts (besides Aykroyd) hosted in the same year that they had films that ranked among the year's top 10. Arsenio Hall first hosted in 1988. Coming To America was the third highest-grossing movie released that year. Dana Carvey hosted in 1992. Wayne's World was the #8 grossing movie released that year. Ben Stiller hosted in 1998. There's Something About Mary was the third-highest grossing movie released that year. Marlon Wayans and Shawn Wayans co-hosted in 2000. Scary Movie was the #9 grossing movie released that year.
Several hosts were selected when they were at or near the height of their TV fame. Arsenio Hall first hosted in 1988, four months before the premiere of The Arsenio Hall Show. Other hosts who were in the midst of the runs of hit shows include Roseanne Barr (Roseanne), Dennis Miller (Dennis Miller Live!), Chris Rock (The Chris Rock Show). Jimmy Fallon (SNL) and Chelsea Handler (Chelsea Lately).
MTV VJs hosted the show in 1986 and 1987. Downtown Julie Brown and Dweezil Zappa were tapped both years. Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter and Martha Quinn joined them the first year. Carolyn Heldman and Kevin Seal joined them the second.
There were no hosts in 2004, 2007 and 2011. Did MTV think this would streamline the show? Did everybody they wanted say no? MTV's not telling.