Jay Pharoah: The MTV VMAs host that wasn’t

This year’s MTV Video Music Awards were host-free. All promotional material leading up to the show focused on Nicki Minaj’s outrageous performance, Beyonce’s Vanguard award and anticipation of what Miley Cyrus would wear. There was no Kevin Hart or Chelsea Handler or Andy Samberg billed as the star who would help us navigate through it all.

But don’t tell that to Jay Pharoah.

The three-season veteran of “Saturday Night live” proved himself essential to the normally tedious transition between awards and performances.

There to intermittently plug the fan-voted Artist to Watch award, Pharoah warmed up the crowd with jokes about the legality of lusting after 21-year-old Ariana Grande before dusting off his Jay Z impersonation. (The mogul’s next venture? A cough syrup aptly named “HOVAtussin.”)

But it was Pharoah’s foray into Kanye West that had the biggest reaction. Pharoah shouted West-like prophecies and non-sensicals that didn’t seem far off from the rapper’s own rants, but even Mrs. Kardashian West herself couldn’t help herself from laughing/smirking.

“I created television,” Pharoah as West said. “Can’t nobody else do that. Matt Lauer! Heeeh!” And, as the night couldn’t be complete without a reference to the ever-popular ice bucket challenge, the comedian as the ever humble rapper noted, “My videos cure ALS.”

So what does this mean for Pharoah? If the past is any indication, we should keep an eye out for his rising star.

Though the VMAs have recently eschewed having one person run the show, Kevin Hart held down the fort in 2012, preceded by Chelsea Handler in 2010 and Russell Brand in both 2008 and 2009. (Anybody remember the hubbub surrounding the Jonas Brothers’ purity rings?) A fresh-faced and nervous Jimmy Fallon — also an SNL fixture at the time — held the reins during the 2002 awards, while several other comedians like Chris Rock (a three-time host), the Wayans brothers and Dennis Miller have made their mark on the MTV institution.

The ever-popular Russell Brand used part of his 2009 autobiography “My Booky Wook” to discuss how the hosting gig introduced him to a wider national audience (and to his now ex-wife, Katy Perry.) Jimmy Fallon can confirm that hosting the VMAs can prepare you for slightly bigger future jobs. And unless you’ve been living under a rock, we all know that comedian Kevin Hart has gone from club comedian to selling out stadiums and co-starring in box-office hits.

If Jay Pharoah can harness the energy surrounding a pop culture event like the VMAs and turn it into a more active movie career — or even more frequent sketches on “Saturday Night Live” — then there’s no telling where he may end up next.

Familiarize yourself now.

MORE VMAs COVERAGE:

Robin Givhan:  In this gender gulf of fashion, too many women choose clichéd over creative

Chris Richards: The shock of too few shocks

Top moments, winners and everything you missed from the show

Nicki Minaj battles wardrobe malfunction, snakes for opening performance

Beyoncé proves she’s flawless — and a feminist — at the MTV VMAs

VMAs pay tribute to Ferguson; Miley Cyrus swaps acceptance speech for homeless youth PSA

Jay Pharoah: The MTV VMAs host that wasn’t

Katy Perry’s denim throwback and other memorable VMA outfits

Caitlin Moore is a features digital editor for The Washington Post, specializing in pop culture.
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