The first thing to do is to weed out the people who host uninteresting shows, because if we don’t watch your program, we’re unlikely to develop a deep and abiding hatred for you. It’s possible, mind you, but in general, if you’re tucked away on a triple-digit cable channel, you’re probably safe. This is why former VJ Kennedy’s name didn’t show up, even though we hear she’s hosting a show on the Game Show Network that’s based around the Prisoners’ Dilemma. You have to at least make it onto our radar.
It also helps if we have reason to think you could be doing better. The full name of the award is The George Gray Award for Worst Host, because when Gray replaced the brilliant Robert Llewellyn as host of TLC’s Junkyard Wars, he heralded the show’s slide from essential to unwatchable. Last we heard, Gray was hosting the syndicated version of The Weakest Link but he didn’t win his own award. Why? Because we already knew we didn’t like him, so we weren’t surprised. Besides which, see point one: you’d have to be pretty bad indeed to be the worst part of the phrase “daytime syndicated version of The Weakest Link”. (Gray is now hosting the latest loss of dignity from ESPN, I’ll Do Anything — which could really be the title of every reality show, couldn’t it?)
Third, even if you meet all the above criteria, you still have to really impress us somehow. There are many, many candidates we can pick from, so we prefer someone who really goes the extra mile to demonstrate just how bad a host they can be.
One candidate who got a lot of support from our panel of experts was Ryan Seacrest. This was a little surprising, because it’s not like Seacrest is new; he’s been annoying American Idol fans for years now. And when you think about what American Idol fans are capable of enjoying, that’s no small feat. But this was the year that Seacrest decided to push his limits: not only did he start (and stop!) hosting a second show (called “Ryan Seacrest Sucks Up to Celebrities” or something like that), he introduced a catch-phrase: “Seacrest, out.”
It is unclear what he hoped to achieve by this. He had been going along doing a fairly inoffensive job, depending on whether you felt he was being mean to your favorite Idol candidate. His main job was rattling off the instructions for text-messaging your vote, and he seemed competent at it. He’d even won his own mini-reality show when Brian Dunkelman got fired, leaving Ryan as the only surviving American Idol host. And then he decided to start calling attention to himself with “Seacrest, Out.” This, of course, was a mistake.
But on reflection, Seacrest, as obnoxious as he is, was not the worst host of 2004. That honor goes to the inimitable Joe Rogan.
Rogan continued his run of hosting Fear Factor as though we were half personal trainer and half really annoying personal trainer, encouraging people to eat bugs and pick locks underwater. There’s nothing terribly wrong with this, I guess, as long as you’re already resigned to the collapse of Western Civilization. Anyway, we’d become used to it. But last year, Joe Rogan took over as host of Comedy [sic] Central’s The Man Show. As you might remember, Jimmy Kimmel and Adam Carolla took off for Hollywood (where Kimmel tried his best to win this very award), leaving the show to Rogan and Doug Stanhope, of whom I had never heard.
And here’s the thing: the show got worse. It was just as misogynistic as before, had just as many poop and fart jokes as before, and involved just as much drinking as before. The only thing that changed was that Kimmel and Carolla were out, and Rogan and Stanhope were in. And in less than a year, the show went from “Gets good ratings for a basic cable show” to “Cancelled”. In other words, Joe Rogan could not fill the shoes of Jimmy Kimmel. How bad do you have to be in order to be an inadequate Jimmy Kimmel fill-in?
Bad enough to win the (George Gray!) award for Worst Host of 2004.
Now, you might ask why we expected anything different. The answer is that Joe Rogan used to be on a little show called NewsRadio. When it was on, we loved it. Heck, we still love it through the magic of A&E reruns, although now that we’ve seen all the episodes a million times, we have to admit we’re getting a little tired of it. And when Joe Rogan was on as the conspiracy-theorizing electrician “Joe,” he was funny. So forgive us if we thought he might be funny outside that context.
Incidentally, while we’re on the subject, have you noticed the general career trend of people from NewsRadio?
Dave Foley: Now hosting Celebrity Poker Showdown while getting really, really liquored up.
Maura Tierney: On ER and also showed up on Celebrity Poker Showdown, probably to show Foley what a working actor looks like.
Stephen Root: Still the voice of Bill on King of the Hill; his appearance in Dodgeball suggests that he might have been sucked into the Wilson/Stiller/Vaughn Comedy Vortex.
Vicki Lewis: Her last job was as a voice in Finding Nemo, and she apparently lives with Nick Nolte. Yikes!
Khandi Alexander: On CSI: Miami, which sounds like a good job until you realize the majority of her scenes are with David Caruso.
Andy Dick: Is still Andy Dick.
Phil Hartman: Well, you know.
Jon Lovitz: Hey, he was on Las Vegas this week, wasn’t he?
Our point is that a very funny ensemble has mostly been dispersed to the four winds, with the most successful people being the ones who fled to the world of drama. And, of course, Joe Rogan, who demonstrated an ability to stink up two shows at one time.
Additional contributions to this article by: Monty Ashley.