MTV Video Music Awards 2011: Desperate Living in Desperate Times (PHOTORECAP!)

Life is horrible sometimes. By "sometimes," I specifically mean every year in late August for a two-hour period on MTV. And by "life," I mean the MTV Video Music Awards. And by "horrible," I mean HORRIBLE. Is it possible for something to be both headache-inducing AND boring? Don't answer that—MTV already did.

So last night the 28th annual MTV Video Music Awards happened. I watched them and now excuse me, I am going to walk out the door and directly into the ocean. BRB. Just kidding, I'm too tired. But I am telling you this thing was a nightmare, and like most nightmares, it involved screaming. TONS of screaming. But to be fair, I guess there were SOME highlights last night. Mixed in. Somewhere. Let's talk about them!

Let's just get some things out of the way: YES, Lady Gaga spent the evening in drag; YES, Beyoncé announced her pregnancy; YES, we saw a couple seconds of The Hunger Games, and YES, Justin Bieber both dressed and behaved like the Church Lady. I will admit the show could have been way worse (as bad as the MTV Video Music Awards, for example), but two major saving graces were the genuinely cool stage and generally awesome camera work. The VMAs looked great.

The category graphics, however, all looked like this:

Unwatchable! Plus, we only got to see like two seconds of each song, which I guess makes sense, seeing as none of these videos have ever played on MTV in their entirety.

So anyway, Lady Gaga was workshopping a new character from her dinner theater gig—a swarthy lesbian named Jo Calderone. This person was basically an ex-lover of Lady Gaga's or something? It was very confusing. She looked like Mole from Desperate Living, or possibly one of the Drapes from Cry-Baby, except slightly brain damaged? The crowd reactions were the best:

First off, I loved that the celebrities had to crane their necks to watch everything because there were FOUR stages total. Also the creeping panic in Katy Perry's eyes when she realized her clown outfit just wasn't going to cut it this year. The ante had been UPPED.

But yeah, obviously this character was just SO entertaining that Lady Gaga went on for like ten minutes this way. Jokes included the assertion that Lady Gaga showers with her shoes on. I didn't understand any of it!

And it just kept going and going with no real point and definitely no approval from the crowd:

In what would prove to be a major theme of the evening, Justin Bieber was the worst.

But then suddenly Jo Calderone was banging a piano and crooning the new Lady Gaga song.

And then she led a troupe of tough-guy dancers. All of the tough guys are in dancing troupes now, I'm surprised you didn't know that.

And then BRIAN MAY showed up. That's right, Queen's incredible guitarist moseyed onto the stage with his excellent grey perm/mullet and he was AMAZING. See, it's things like this that tend to keep Lady Gaga just slightly within the realm of awesomeness. This man wrote co-wrote "Under Pressure"!

Dave Grohl and the lady behind him pretty much represented the audience's perfectly split factions of excitement vs. confusion.

Brian May is a masterpiece!

I got VERY worried when Lady Gaga spilled a bunch of beer on the floor. That's an accident waiting to happen. VERY slippery!

Oh, Lady Gaga.

Haters gonna hate, but in my opinion this performance was really something special.

So like I said, the stage was awesome. But just because it was awesome doesn't mean it wasn't also CONFUSING. Like, WHAT was going up there? Four stages total, including a hook-shaped one, and also it's hard to tell from this picture but the middle stage goes back for, like, the length of a football field? A couple of times singers would have to hoof it all the way downstage, and they looked TIRED when they got there. But yeah, anyway, it was cool. Nice job.

Little person comedian Kevin Hart came out and did a routine about how MTV didn't have a host this year and that they should have asked him to host. But then he hurt his argument when he told tons of awful jokes. The only thing that made me laugh was this part about how, upon taking the stage, several people quickly stood up in front of the camera and walked off:

They missed out! Kevin Hart had tons of cool things to say, including that Lady Gaga's drag character was "masculine" and therefore "weird," that Lil Wayne should not skateboard since he is black and that Kevin Hart would like to spray the audience with STDs. I'm paraphrasing, but not really.

To Kevin Hart's credit, Zoe Saldana and LMFAO were LOVING IT. Chord Overstreet and the stage hands and the ladies who were texting didn't like it as much. Oh well, that's show business! Can't please everybody.

Ugh, this lady. Jessie J sat on a chair off to the side and sang into and out of commercials for the ENTIRE evening. It would have been okay if she was even remotely fun to watch. No offense to Jessie J, I'm sure she's a nice person with a good heart, but she is painful to the senses. Please quit your night job, Jessie J! Ask for your day job back! Dress nicely.

Nicki Minaj was the best (like always), especially because she was supposed to be the straight man to Jonah Hill's jokes, but her flat line delivery was way funnier than anything he was saying. Like, you could tell she thought their scripted banter was stupid (it was SO stupid). He had some routine about people accusing him of being less funny since he lost weight, but then he ended up proving the people right? Meanwhile Nicki Minaj was just giving him the side-eye. The best! "You're hired, Nicki Minaj." —Lorne Michaels, hopefully.

Did I mention Jonah Hill did not go over well? In retrospect, comedians should not try to force awkward pauses when they're speaking to a crowd of thousands. Also, the bragging.

Britney Spears won the Moon Man for Best Pop Video. In another of the night's recurring themes: Britney Spears made my heart ache. It's not just the fact that she's recently begun to resemble Francine Dancer from Hollywood Public Access, or even the fact that neither MTV nor her handlers seem to actually care about her well-being. It's mostly the extremely sad, vacant look in her eyes that seems to plead, "Why wouldn't you let me quit this machine back in 2006 when I wanted to?" Better luck next time, Britney!

So then we got a recurring sketch involving Kevin Hart as an MTV page (?) handling the talent backstage. There was a very funny joke about how scary Rick Ross is.

But WHAT? He's in his dressing room painting just like Bob Ross. (I'm not sure either.)

Then more Jessie J.

The stage already looked like a massive birth canal, but never more so than when it birthed a SURPRISE PERFORMANCE by two of the biggest egos in town.

Jay and 'Ye! They sang their weird song that has Otis Redding moaning over a beat. Expensive!

Then a very dapper man BUM-RUSHED the stage and was immediately tackled by an old man in a gray suit? Who knew MTV had its own field agents? Or maybe that was Jay-Z's personal bodyguard? Yeah probably, nevermind.

I will admit, they did a good job. Short and sweet! This hop hop thing may catch on after all. (Just kidding, Grandma, it is only for prison people!)

But lookie here: Church Lady was NOT impressed. Seriously, this guy was just the worst. Even Selena Gomez knew to clap for JAY-Z AND KANYE WEST, but Justin Bieber just sat there like an effeminate morsel of awful.

Who better to present the award for Best Rock Video than noted rock musicians Miley Cyrus and the guy from Mask? (Just kidding, I'm the one who looks like the guy from Mask.) Miley claimed she was raised on rock music "like Nirvana," because sure she was.

The Foo Fighters won and Dave Grohl charmingly implored the audience to "never lose faith in rock and roll." Cut to these guys:

Perfect. Also, Dave Grohl closed his speech by thanking Judy McGrath, the MTV CEO who just stepped down. Very cool. Long live corporate rock!

Just kidding, long live THIS GUY. Queen was really the best.

The best part about Jessie J was that whenever she'd appear I'd get excited about watching commercials.

Joe Jonas appeared in a backstage "sketch" involving his eccentric celebrity demands.

These included something called Kreayshawn holding an antique crossbow...

Rebecca Black in a dinosaur costume...

And the surviving members of the Cali Swag District doing The Dougie despite founding member Montae Talbert's recent murder. Hilarious jokes, VMAs!

A trio of old men came out and impersonated a different trio of old men.

There was some kind of weird showdown with Odd Future, Etc., which went nowhere.

Nicki Minaj won for Best Hip Hop video! Look, I am not complaining about Nicki Minaj winning awards (give her ALL the awards), but is "Super Bass" really the best hip hop song of the year? Just asking, you guys, jeez.

Lil Weezy was very happy for her! It was pretty charming.

It's important that I keep reminding you how often Jessie J appeared. Before and after EVERY commercial break! She had some dumb cast on her leg which explained the chair, but still: Get out of here, lady.

These CGI rats that dance to this horrible LMFAO song need to be killed. Poison, sticky paper, a good old-fashioned hammer, I don't care! Get this off my TV! This is the worst commercial, hands down. And that car they're selling is a boxy chartreuse turd. Sorry, but if you see this commercial and then as a result buy that car, you should just drive it directly off a cliff because you ruined Christmas.

I don't know these people, I just know OF them. I know the guy on the right was on Glee because they needed a hunk who wasn't doughy, and the lady on the left got fired from the Disney Channel, right? Does the Disney Channel fire people? I'm not sure. Glee certainly does! Sorry for being mean, I hope nice things happen to these people. Maybe they will fall in love with each other??

Katy Perry and Kanye West won an award for Best Collaboration. The best part of their collaboration last night was when Katy Perry made TWO jokes at Kanye's expense and he basically just stared at her in response.

Oh well, at least she got a one-man standing ovation. Every popstar's dream! (I see you back there, Brian May.)

Rick Ross and Paul Rudd proved that they are a new comedic duo to be reckoned with! They did not prove this, that was a lie. This pairing was an awkward mistake.

Did you like this song by Pit Bull feat. Ne-Yo? Then we have one less thing in common! Truly the worst song of the whole evening, it's so bad that I bet Will.I.Am had to mute his TV. Imagine the worst '90s house beat and Uncle Fester coming out in red pants shouting at everybody.

Kim Kardashian and her stepdad were super into it.

Then there were green lasers and everything turned into that one J.Lo video from ten years ago. Might as well!

I am sorry. Who did this? Who made this song famous?

I knew it: SHE did. Diabolical!

Then Katy Perry changed into her second clown outfit of the evening and introduced Adele. Great news!

While Adele can certainly get shouty, she kept things pretty restrained and the momentary break from Jessie J's screeching was like heaven to the ears. Also the song was pretty good! Sad and kinda raw. Adele is going places, you heard it here first.


Whoops, maybe this commercial for Bucky Larson is the worst commercial on television? Why is this guy shouting at me? Make him relax, somebody! He's scaring my cats.

These three people are individually great, but outside of Roger Rabbit, has it EVER been effective to blend humans with cartoons? Answer: No. Obviously this snippet was a disaster and not even because the main joke was that "Minaj" sounds sexual. No, it didn't work because it was a bad idea to begin with. Some dumb MTV executive thought this up, I just know it. FIRE YOURSELF, Chad or Jessica (they are all named this).

Ladies and gentlemen, the evening's finest presenter. Just kidding, Kim Kardashian did not do a great job. She seemed frightened, honestly. Oh well, better luck next thousand times!

OBVIOUSLY the Best Male Video went to Justin Bieber. Who else would it have gone to? He thanked "not only God, but Jesus," which led to a thoughtful clarification on how Christianity is not in fact a polytheistic belief system since God, Jesus and the Holy Spirit, are but three subdivisions of the unified Whole. No, just kidding, Justin Bieber is simply a jerk who doesn't care about alienating his non-Christian fans so long as his base is fired up. Very shrewd! #TeamBieber4ever

Oh but then GET READY because a true piece of garbage was about to perform. You know who I mean.

It's hard to believe we've allowed this person back into the pop culture landscape after what he did (and particularly after his lack of genuine remorse), but I can't tell you how to live your life. Listen to Chris Brown if you feel like it, figure out excuses to make yourself feel okay about it. But also maybe go look at those pictures of Rihanna again? The continuing career of Chris Brown relies on the rationalizations put forth by his fans, and it's one of the lowest points in pop-culture history. #ranting #needasandwich

Anyway, his routine involved lip-syncing, men on trampolines dancing to "Smells Like Teen Spirit," Mortal Kombat fighters, and then, finally, wire stunts.

Ooh and look who decided to start cheering for people? A STANDING OVATION from the Church Lady! Perfect. It's just nice when things make sense, you know?

To her credit, immediately after Chris Brown's performance, Jessie J sang "No Scrubs." After all these years I still love that the first verse defines a "scrub." It's just helpful!

Lady Gaga's swarthy lesbian character came back out to present Britney Spears with the Michael Jackson Video Vanguard Award. At this point, I had to hand it to her: She really commits! Lesser pop stars, particularly ones who misspell their first name "Katy," would probably have gone back into hot girl mode during MINUTE TWO. Leave it to Lady Gaga to spend the ENTIRE show playing a man. True, her dialogue needed a severe trim and a rewrite, but with this charade she basically made a mockery of the entire event and I applaud her for it. I like unexpected things!

Leave Britney alone, you guys. She doesn't know what's happening anymore. She's like a friendly ghost, basically.

This was a nightmare. Three dozen little girls re-enacting the career of a teenage vixen for whom things did not work out so well? Icky!

The saddest part was how MTV forced Britney to use her "acceptance speech" to introduce Beyonce. Man, just heartbreaking. She is a human being, MTV! With feelings! Somebody help her, please. Witness Protection was practically INVENTED for situations like this!

Onto MUCH happier things, Beyonce KILLED IT. First of all, she sang the F out of this song. But also she had this old-style swagger that pretty much blew everyone out of the Nokia Theater (haha). Then there was the grand finale:

SO IT BEGINS. Man, what kind of person wouldn't smile at a reveal like that? Well-played.

Jay-Z seemed pretty stoked too. Aw, go on, you crazy kids.

Sorry that I am obsessed with people being short, but look at their faces! Great faces! I am slightly mad at Selena Gomez for never being as funny or interesting as she is on Wizards of Waverly Place (oops, my credibility). I guess she is too busy releasing albums and being self-serious and having the worst fake romance in history. Oh well, maybe later?

Tyler the Creator won Best New Artist and the entire Odd Future, Etc., crew joined him onstage. He swore so much that most of his speech was basically silent. Seriously it was like this "_____________ just _____________ thank ______________ _________________ _____________ ____________ __________________ for _______________ to _________ _________________." Why so mysterious, Tyler the Creator?

Ugh + Yay.

Some random unknown band got to perform on the VMAs. Ladies and gentlemen: Young the Giant. They were like The Walkmen meets Kings of Leon meets Zzzzzzzzzzz. Lead singer with two mics, guitarist in red fedora. Just a bunch of cool dudes, basically.

Seems about right.

Sorry Britain, you can have her back.

A gaggle of lady clowns came out and did some "old people vs. young people" humor. P.S. Has Deena ever looked so pretty? She looked like the host of a South American children's show.

Lady Gaga won Best Female for "Born this Way." Accepted as a male. Irony noted! Also noted: Brian May, who was the best still.

This was a deserved win. The lyrics of "Born this Way" contain some of the funniest comedy writing in modern music. Have you seriously READ them? So hilarious.

Then we hit 11 o'clock and I got super excited this thing was over. NOPE.

Russell Brand came out and breathlessly recited that one blog post he once wrote about Amy Winehouse.

Then he threw to Tony Bennett who talked about how Amy Winehouse sang on his new album, and he in turn threw to a video he'd filmed with her.

And it was lovely. She looked and sounded great. Super sad. Bye, AW.

Bruno Mars did his thing.

Jessie J did her thing.


Okay so we saw Katniss kind of running around a forest, but no Gale and NO PEETA. But oh well. Not the end of the world.

OBVIOUSLY Katie Holmes gave out the biggest award of the night. (Quick question: HOW is Katie Holmes booking all these gigs? What is going on??)

Poor Katy Perry feebly walked onstage to collect her trophy for Best Video or Whatever for "Firework." She proceeded to congratulate herself for singing such an inspirational song. Not so fast, Katy. The song is fine, but shouting into autotune does not mean you're inspiring people. Cut it out. I'll be easy on her though, because clearly she lives in the shadow of Lady Gaga and tonight marks yet another awards show stolen out from under her. Oh well, Katy Perry can comfort herself with the fact that she's sold a hundred billion records.

To close out the night, Drake came out in his best Cosby sweater and introduced Lil Wayne.

Lil Wayne was rocking a sweet Boy George ensemble while he sang a slightly embarrassing auto-tuned ballad...

...which then became a slightly embarrassing rock and roll song? Oh, Lil Wayne. Didn't you learn from that rock album fiasco?

And then BOOM! After running only fifteen minutes late, the whole thing was over, a nightmare forgotten upon waking.



... Is Lady Gaga OKAY?
... Who do you want to marry more: Chris Brown or Justin Bieber?
... Do you think Beyonce will ask Kelly Rowland to babysit?
... Who is your favorite contemporary screamer?