When Russell Brand was announced as the host of this year’s MTV Video Music Awards, he slid his way into a special place in history. He joins the short list of stars who have hosted the show more than once, and the extremely rare air of people who have hosted two years in a row.
Arsenio Hall was the first host to come back for another year — in fact, he led four straight shows from 1988 to 1991. Hall, the host of a wildly popular talk show, was right at home as the ringleader of MTV’s rock and roll circus. He presided over Guns N’ Roses’ performance of “Welcome to the Jungle” in 1988, the set that got Andrew Dice Clay banned from MTV in ’89, the 1990 show-wide attack on Tipper Gore and the Parents Music Resource Center, Paul Reubens’ first public appearance (as Pee-wee Herman) after his lewd conduct arrest in ’91 and the backstage fistfight between Poison’s Bret Michaels and C.C. DeVille that same year.
In 1995 and 1996, Dennis Miller (yes, that Dennis Miller) took over the hosting duties. Miller brought his dry, acerbic wit to the proceedings that included such key moments as Van Halen’s 1996 reunion with David Lee Roth, Michael Jackson’s legendary 15-minute performance that opened the ’95 show and the famously awkward interview live from space with two Russian cosmonauts.
Brand will become the only other host to take on duties two years in a row, but Chris Rock has also held the reins more than once. The comedian hosted the show in 1997, 1999 and 2003. The 1997 show was especially wild, with Fiona Apple’s angry acceptance speech, the memorable meeting between Martha Stewart and Busta Rhymes and the show-closing, butt-bearing performance of Marilyn Manson’s “The Beautiful People” that led Rock to proclaim “Get to church now!” at its conclusion.
With that company, Brand has a lot to live up to, though he’s already got a good start on establishing his place in VMA history.