VMA Host Sebastian Maniscalco's "Triggered" Joke Really Did Not Go Over Well

Host Sebastian Maniscalco's VMAs monologue started off tamely enough. Maniscalco praised Bruce Springsteen, which is expected when you're doing a set in Newark, NJ. Oddly, though, Maniscalco didn't mention the Jonas Brothers, who are also from Jersey and in the middle of a triumphant comeback – our first indication that Maniscalco might not understand his audience.
From there, things got cringey quick. First, Maniscalco joked about iPhones and influencers — which was strange, considering the arena was full of influencers. Then Maniscalco's monologue became aggressively targeted at the show's millennial and Gen-Z audiences. He directly mocked millennials' perceived "sensitivity" and the idea of "trigger warnings." Essentially, he went Full Boomer. "A few announcements," he said, before launching into the tirade.
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"MTV noticed that we’re living in ultrasensitive times," Maniscalco said. "If you feel triggered or you feel offended by anything I'm saying here or anything the musical artists are doing, they’re providing a safe space backstage where you’ll get some stress balls and a blankie and also Lil Nas X brought his horse which will double as an emotional support animal. If you’d like to talk to your ushers they’ll send you back to where that’s happening."
In Maniscalco's opinion, MTV was being lenient with this (fake) safe space backstage. "Personally I'd remove you from the arena, put you in your car, and send you home. But they opted with the safe space," Maniscalco said.
Before wrapping up, Maniscalco had another announcement: There would be no "participation trophies" handed out at this event. With that, Maniscalco hurls the common stereotype that millennials need praise. "While we’re talking about feelings not getting hurt, MTV is doing this old school tonight. They're giving out one trophy per category. Not everyone’s walking away with a moon person or a participation ribbon. This is not little league. If you don't win tonight, I do have a little advice for you. Next year work harder," Maniscalco said.
According to Maniscalco's parameters, there are probably a lot of people in the audience and watching the VMAs who feel offended after that monologue. In the audience, people squirmed. Queen Latifah literally exhaled when Maniscalco started talking about "participation trophies."
Of course, Maniscalco meant to be offensive. He wanted to rile people up — exactly the people who would be riled up by his speech: Young people. They responded on Twitter.
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Maniscalco's monologue clashes with the ethos MTV's VMAs have always been targeted for younger audiences. Why hire a host who would make fun of them? A host who admits, during his monologue, that he's out of touch and just learned what "shade" means? A host who snubs the Jonas Brothers, who are also from New Jersey, by not mentioning them? Simply put, a host who's proud for being removed from his crowd?
In prior interviews, Maniscalco says he avoids political humor. “It’s overdone and nobody cares,” Maniscalco told the Orange County Register. “People get it 24 hours a day, seven days a week.” He abandoned that policy tonight.
By hiring Maniscalco, MTV is definitely aligning itself with a certain audience — just not the people watching the VMAs.
Refinery29 has reached out to MTV for comment.
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