These are hard times, and when things get really dark, we at Vulture like to double down on the things that are still capable of bringing us happiness. That’s why we’re running this recurring column, which serves as half-celebration and half-brainstorm for someone we’re consistently delighted to see on our screens: the beloved British performer of stage and screen Matt Berry. He’s best known for shows like Toast of London, The IT Crowd, and What We Do in the Shadows, but we’re confident that a performance by Berry would spruce up all sorts of film and TV stories, big and small.
So a few times a month, we’ll be using this space to propose new, occasionally out-of-the-box opportunities or roles for Mr. Berry. We are confident that should he ever find this column, he will find it both confusing and mortifying.
Our post-pandemic summer of love and terror, when we excitedly emerge from our sanitized cocoons into a scary new world full of light and heat and cicadas, is almost here. It’s in this context that Matt Berry’s newest album, The Blue Elephant, has come into our lives. I, of course, sprang for the limited-edition mustard vinyl, because I am an advanced-level Berry fan. And as I completed my third full listen alone in my darkened living room, I came to a sudden realization: Matt Berry should host a celebrity cruise.
If you haven’t had a chance to check out The Blue Elephant yet, it is a full-bodied musical experience — one that I think would be best consumed at sea. Maybe it’s because I’ve been in a small apartment in Queens for over a year, but this psychedelic album that’s light on lyrics but heavy on complex drumming and organ solos feels like a real journey into the unknown for me, and the greatest unknown journey is into the sea. (Or space, but you can’t party in space. It’s illegal, I think.) Also, the first track of this album is called “Aboard,” and there are only two things you can be aboard: a train or a boat. (Or a spaceship, but we are not going to space, okay?) A Matt Berry cruise would be a full three days of light, extremely consensual interactions with Berry, along with screenings of his work and album-listening parties, finally culminating in a big live performance from the man himself.
Ultimately, after listening to this album several times, I think Berry himself might need this even more than we do. While Elephant starts like a party — and several of the tracks truly do just rock — a lot of it feels like a cry for help. Lyrics like “I came back to Bedfordshire / Welcome back, now disappear” sound a lot like Berry lamenting his inability to live normally in his hometown. There’s even a song where he asks someone to forget him, and I’m pretty sure that someone is God. And when you consider these lyrics next to the album’s Elephant Man imagery, it’s telling. Joseph Merrick, or the Elephant Man, was famous for being exploited by show business. He’s a tragic figure for any celebrity to embrace, because his relationship to fame was one of isolation and extreme cruelty. In the David Lynch film The Elephant Man, he famously had to declare, “I am not an animal, I’m a human being.” Berry would probably never admit it, but this whole album feels like it was made by a man utterly jaded by fame.
What he needs, in my personal opinion, is to feel a sense of belonging, or at the very least to begin to enjoy some of the trappings of fame cherished by other entertainers. Consider for a moment what Kesha, Goop, and Impractical Jokers have in common: They have cruises! Are their fans better than us? No! The Goop cruise bills itself as a “floating hotel” with your own personal butler, which is nice for them. But the Berry cruise is a floating 1970s pub where you get your own personal ceramic tankard with Berry’s face on it. The Impractical Jokers cruise is filled with dads who work in sales, and the Kesha cruise is probably full of kids looking to party hard, while the Berry cruise is mostly people over 30 who just finished their butler shifts on the Goop cruise and want to blow off some steam. I know which boat I’m getting on. It’s the one where we have a dance party on the deck of a large ship to “Summer Sun,” the second track on Berry’s album and a clear contender for song of the summer.
In addition to being able to require vaccinations for everyone’s safety, the boat also has an advantage for Berry’s reserved nature in that the novelty of being at sea means he doesn’t need to do much. We could depart from Southampton, so it’s not too big a trip for him, and circle the English Channel aimlessly so as not to complicate things with passports and whatnot. All Berry would really need to do is get on the loudspeaker as the boat gets going to say, “Welcome aboard the Matt Berry cruise. I am Matt Berry. I hope you enjoy this cruise. Good luck,” with a couple rolled R’s in there to really gas people up. He probably has some experience with wordplay here from his long-lost Carnival Cruise ad campaign (by the way, if you have access to copies of these ads, please get in touch). And that’s it. The pressure is off. That’s all we’d need from him that first day. Just think how much those suckers on the Goop boat probably paid to not hear the word “cruise” stretched into three syllables.
Our first night on the ship would be an elaborate dinner, and by “elaborate dinner” I mean fish and chips with a fancy dessert. Berry can certainly join us (we will save a seat for him), but he’ll also have his own private area of the ship, complete with a bar of his own, so he can manage who he has to be around and when. Then, we’d have one of those silent discos where everyone listens to the newest album through headphones. This is so we can each be fully engulfed in the sonic experience while remaining free to dance or just make our way up to the deck to sit thoughtfully with a drink and ponder the sea. The second night I think would be good for a Toast of London marathon, maybe even a Toast of Tinseltown debut if he really wants to spoil us, along with a whiskey tasting and a spooky late-night Witchazel listening party, and the final night is the live concert by Matt Berry and the Maypoles. The next day we return to Southampton, having built a community of like-minded folks Berry knows he can call on for support at a moment’s notice. Doesn’t that sound nice and not at all like a weirder version of Scientology?
I think a lot about this 2019 clip of Berry telling a crowd at Comic-Con how people yell “Bat!” at him on the Tube. He clearly has a sense of humor about it, but it must be alienating to have things you’ve said at work shouted at you by strangers when you are merely another person trying to live your life. And sure, a boat trip with a bunch of fans might not fix this problem immediately, but it would be fun. He can take a much-needed break and simply receive our presence as a way of saying You’re doing a good job, and You are beloved, and Is the shrimp cocktail included in the unlimited buffet?
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