07/15/2001 at 01:00 AM EDT
"Everyone wanted to be a VJ, even the receptionist," recalls former on-air talent director Steve Leeds. Many auditioned in 1987, Leeds's first year, but most were rejected—including an Olympic heroine and a couple of fledgling comics named O'Donnell and Rock. Adam Sandler made the cut, but the NYU student opted for a part-time gig instead. At the time, Rock struck Leeds as too "negative," while then movie marketer Greg Kinnear was "just boring." Still, Leeds adds about not hiring the future stars, "I feel like a bozo in retrospect."
"I'm not hip," declared the comic, who later landed a stand-up show on VH1. "Rosie O'Donnell
's my name. Is that a VJ name? No. I think it should be Blade Rockwell."
"Laugh at me, folks!" pleaded Sandler. Sample joke: "My girlfriend is anorexic. Actually, I've been seeing less and less of her lately."
MARY LOU RETTON
Swinging onto the set from a chin-up bar, the gymnast chirped, "Just thought I'd drop in!"
After griping about the taxes taken out of his McDonald's paycheck the previous year, Rock offered a way for the U.S. to save on executions: "Stabbing don't cost a damn thing."
"This is MTV that we are talking to you from," said Kinnear, who discussed various TV "serieses," then blurted, "My God, I don't know what I'm talking about!"