About the Show

Thursday, August 29, 2002

Hosted by Jimmy Fallon

We traveled a few blocks downtown again to New York's Radio City Music Hall for the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards, with Jimmy Fallon as the Master of Ceremonies. Because we like to start the show off with a bang, and we needed a way to shoehorn Michael Jackson into the show (really, check the rest of the archive, he's been here almost every single year!), we decided to celebrate Mr. Jackson's birthday. Britney Spears

We let uber-fan Britney Spears do the honor of presenting Michael with a birthday cake. Amidst all of the laudatory comments in her speech, Brit, not incorrectly, referred to Michael as "the artist of the millennium." And that's where the confusion came in.

Michael apparently got confused, not understanding the concept of his birthday or the big birthday cake on stage, and instead thought that MTV was honoring him with an Artist of the Millennium award. Uncomfortable hilarity ensued as Jackson accepted the non-existent honor with a stirring speech about his childhood in Indiana. For this priceless moment in VMA history, we've been trying to give him the Awkwardness of the Millennium Award ever since, but he never shows up to get that one.

But that wasn't the only uncomfortable moment of the night. Nope, we've got more of those. There was the unlikely duo of former Van Halen singers David Lee Roth and Sammy Hagar presenting the Best Rock Video award. When Dave called their planned joint live outing "the Celebrity Deathmatch tour," an annoyed Hagar stated flatly, "I don't need the money, Dave!"

Yet, we still have to recall the case of Eminem who had no less than three "moments." The man born Marshall Mathers was the big winner, taking four Moonmen -- including Best Rap Video and Video of the Year for "Without Me." When he won Best Male Video, his award was presented by Christina Aguilera, whom he had dissed in the lyrics of his hit, "The Real Slim Shady." Awkward!

Then Triumph the Insult Comic Dog used the 2002 MTV Video Music Awards to pick a fight with Eminem in the audience. The foul-mouthed pooch's bit was so offensive to Slim Shady that MTV later exorcized it from VMA rebroadcasts. We likewise removed the part where Eminem challenged Moby to a fight (the diminutive Moby had previously called the rapper's music misogynistic and homophobic). The audience sided with Moby on this one and rallied with a chorus of boos.

Truly, the 2002 VMAs featured a myriad of instant-classic moments:

• Justin Timberlake's first solo performance ("Like I Love You")

• Pink's "I'm too drunk for this" acceptance of the Best Female Video award ("Get the Party Started")

• Bruce Springsteen's show opening off-site performance outside and in the rain ("The Rising")

• Christina Aguilera's very revealing outfit, which Jimmy Fallon described as "her boobs wrapped in a napkin."

• And finally, the return of Guns N' Roses to the stage, highlighted by the sight of Slash's replacement, Buckethead (so nicknamed for the large KFC bucket he wears on his head), on guitar. Weirdly and despite a braided Axl Rose who was severely winded by the end of "Welcome to the Jungle," they still rocked.

Admit it, the VMAs are our own special brand of crazy, and you love it!