The Video Music Awards are all about being brash and cool and down with the kids and hip to the pop culture — and by that measure, Chelsea Handler turned in a workwomanlike performance opening the VMAs. She played to her sexy-lady-ness in the taped opening sequence, with a weird sexual-harassment bit in which she strode down the backstage halls in her robe and kept getting good-luck slaps on the backside from every guy she encountered. (It was neither strong enough to be a feminist statement on the creepiness of such inappropriate contact nor edgy enough to be transgressive. Or maybe I’m just still pining for Jimmy Fallon’s impeccably fun Glee-themed opening to the Emmys.) The Lindsay cameo saved it, at least, if only with the key elements of surprise and topicality.
As the live portion of the show began, Handler turned in a moderately funny Gaga sendup, appearing amid red-lycra-clad dancers wearing a dollhouse on her head. Though, again, it felt a little like Host the VMAs Paint-by-Numbers — Gaga’s both the easiest and the lamest (not to mention the most willing) target around. Her monologue then brought us typical crowd-pleasers like drinking and drug references like, “That’s the last time I do a prayer circle with Snoop Dogg.” There were herpes digs at the cast of the Jersey Shore, and a mention of “that series of duets released by that Russian woman featuring Mel Gibson — those were cute.” The obligatory Kanye nod — calling him “the big black elephant in the room” — was equally edgy-but-boring. There was even use of the word “vagina” for good measure (as in, “imagine how good [Justin Bieber’s] music will be when he sees a vagina”).
Speaking of which, one of her better jokes came when she mentioned that she was the show’s first lady host since 1994 — when Roseanne Barr played emcee — back when “The Situation was just a classy way to refer to a teenage pregnancy, and Justin Bieber’s mom had just given birth to her 401K plan.” (In case you’re confused, Sarah Silverman three years ago wasn’t the host — she just did the opening monologue.) Handler called on the nominees and guests to provide some serious excitement — “I’m not talking about some predictable girl-on-girl awards show kiss. … I’m over that.” Hear, hear to that — since so far, things seem pretty standard on all fronts.
But what do you think, Music Mixers? How are you feeling about Handler as host so far? How does she stack up against Russell Brand and other VMA hosts past?