The VMAs have been around for, like, your entire life. A ton of interesting stuff has happened during and behind-the-scenes of the show, and we’ve put together a few fun facts to round out your full VMAs education.
Keep your knowledge of pop culture sharp and witty — as it should be — by watching this year’s show on Sunday at 9/8c.
1. At the first VMAs, Michael Jackson won three awards. Who was the only performer to win more? Herbie Hancock. Wait a minute — who?
The first VMAs were at Radio City Music Hall on September 14, 1984. Dan Akroyd and Bette Midler hosted the show, and musician Herbie Hancock took home five awards — and we don’t blame you if you have no idea who any of those people are.
2. In 2013, the Moonman statue was redesigned for the first time in 30 years.
Brooklyn artist KAWS redesigned the Moonman statue in honor of the VMAs’ first time in Brooklyn.
3. Madonna has won more Moonman awards than Michael Jackson and Janet Jackson combined.
Madonna has won more VMAs than anyone ever. She’s won 20 Moonmen since 1984 — when she opened the show with a scandalous-at-the-time performance of “Like A Virgin” — for everything from Video Of The Year to Best Longform Video.
4. The 1998 VMAs opened with a penis joke.
Ben Stiller’s dad talked about his son’s penis on national TV, saying, “Getting your penis caught in your zipper’s what got you here” — a reference to Ben Stiller’s role in “There’s Something About Mary.”
5. Lady Gaga’s 2010 gown required 50 pounds of meat.
Lady Gaga called her meat gown — made of, yep, you guessed it, real meat — from the 2010 VMAs “the most comfortable dress of the night,” according to the gown’s designer Franc Fernandez. He bought 50 pounds of meat to create the outfit, and Gaga told him the dress smelled good.
And you probably missed the dancer freaking out about said pigeon when it flew in the completely wrong direction it was supposed to and landed on her leg instead.
7. One Direction and Rihanna were more astounded by Miley and Robin’s 2013 twerkfest than the Smith family was.
Here are One Direction’s and Rihanna’s reactions:
And here’s the Smiths’ reactions:
yyyoo look at Will Smith's family reaction to Miley!! pic.twitter.com/GlO320EmDB
— Heisenberg (@chi_chibaby) August 26, 2013
LOL JK. Everything you know about this infamous photo of the Smiths reacting to this truly historic event is WRONG. See the pic in the lower corner? They were actually watching Lady Gaga’s “Applause” performance at the time this was captured.
Watch the full video below and you’ll see the Smiths singing and bopping along to Gaga. There’s no doubt they loved her show-stopping performance.
8. Over 150 formal complaints were sent to the Federal Communications Commission in response to Miley and Robin’s performance.
A 29-year-old from Tampa, Florida claims to have seen classier porn than Miley’s twerkalicious antics and Lady Gaga’s performance. Here’s a few key excerpts from the other complaints, reported by The Smoking Gun:
“Miley Cyrus made multiple sexual gestures and was just purely disgusting. It was hard for me to watch at 29…Lady Gaga was practically naked and very indecent…Was this really necessary to put on a good show? I think not. I’ve seen classier porn!”
“Figuring yourself onstage definitely exceeds the NC-17 rating.” (No, that’s not a typo.)
9. The snake Justin Bieber brought to the 2012 VMAs was named ‘Johnson.’
Justin Bieber reportedly said to Selena Gomez, “My snake’s name is Johnson.” Johnson was later auctioned off, and when we last heard of him, he was living at the Reptile and Amphibian Discovery Zoo in Minnesota.
10. Pink accepted her first Moonman while drunk.
When Pink accepted her Best Female Video award for “Get The Party Started” in 2002, she told the whole truth and nothing but the truth: “I’m too drunk for this.” She had started the party much too early apparently.
11. The Best Collaboration award used to be much more dramatically named The Most Earth Shattering Collaboration award.
Beyonce and Shakira were the only artists to win Most Earth Shattering Collaboration for their “Beautiful Liar” collab in 2007.
12. Fort Minor won the Ringtone Of The Year Award — yes, that was a thing — for “Where’d You Go” in 2006.
Ringtone Of The Year and Best Artist Website are just a few of the now-extinct Moonmen.The VMAs change to reflect social trends, so the Best Lyric Video category is being introduced for the first time this year.
13. Kanye was not the only person to interrupt an award winner on stage.
In 1994, Beastie Boys’ Adam Yauch interrupted R.E.M.’s acceptance speech for Breakthrough Video. Yauch yelled that Spike Jonze should have won the award for directing the Beastie Boys’ “Sabatoge” vid. Security ended up carrying Yauch off stage.