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 show up on our screens: 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 Matt 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.
It’s the holiday season, which means it’s time to think about the things we cherish most. Family, friends, wearing masks and talking to loved ones on FaceTime so that no one gets sick, cookies and eggnog, warmth and twinkle lights. At Vulture, we’re also celebrating the people and culture we love best, and that means it’s one more opportunity to spend a little time with a very special someone: Matt Berry. While he should be celebrated all year-round, Christmas is an important holiday in the Matt Berry canon, and so we’re making a new proposal for our running list of the roles that this wonderful, musical, occasionally cantankerous actor should play. Matt Berry should be Santa Claus.
This casting suggestion feels as obvious as the day is long, but let’s walk through exactly why this is such an ideal fit for Mr. Berry. First, the look: Santas can be played against type, often to great effect, but Berry has all the makings of what writer and onetime Christmas elf David Sedaris might describe as a “traditional” Santa. His cheeks are round, he grows a magnificent beard, and he has what could be described as a comforting, familiar Santa stature. (Sure, he’s not white-haired, but a little bleach and dye can fix that problem right up.)
Based on his previous roles, it’s easy to imagine Berry as a Bad Santa type, a whiskey-swigging, foul-mouthed, curmudgeonly man who resents his responsibilities but loves a good mince pie. He’d chuck presents down chimneys in a haphazard fashion. He’d stare at his long list of deliveries, occasionally mispronouncing the names of towns. You’d laugh at him and think about how dumb Christmas is, except then he’d be unexpectedly sweet to the reindeer and you’d wonder why you feel so emotionally attached. Plus, imagine Matt Berry in the red suit carrying a big sack, walking into a pub and announcing “Santa Claus is coming to town!” That’s gold right there.
Berry as a Santa grump is an easy win, but I’d like to also suggest something different: a sincere, earnest Matt Berry Santa Claus. Let’s start with a look at Berry’s previous documented relationship with the holiday. In 2004, he wrote and performed in AD/BC, a Jesus Christ Superstar–style rock-opera parody in which he plays the innkeeper in the Christmas story. It’s a Christmas joke, of course, but the final scene is everyone in this rock opera just absolutely losing their minds about how happy they are about the Baby Jesus. Then in 2011, Berry wrote a song called “A Christmas Song” as a charity event for The X Factor. Berry not only wrote and performed the song, he asked for fans to record themselves singing it and upload the audio, so that the final version could be a crowdsourced chorus of people from all over Britain belting “It’s the 24th of December / There are thousands of presents to remember.”
Then in 2017, Berry starred in a short comedy film called “Sleigh,” where he played the manager of a band struggling to record a Christmas comeback hit single. At the end, Berry’s character saves the day by singing the song himself.
What I’m saying is, this is a man who clearly loves Christmas. He should play Santa, and he should do it wholeheartedly, not just as a joke performance. (Or at least, not only as a joke performance. I absolutely want to see the joke version, too.)
In truth, I think it may be possible that he actually is Santa? I don’t have evidence that he is, but I also don’t have evidence that he’s not. Until we can prove it, though, Matt Berry should play the role of Santa Claus. This year, he’s exactly the kind of Santa spirit we need.
The thing is that Berry’s eyes have an ideal, distinctive, Santa-like sparkle to them, a twinkle that contains delight but also a hint of melancholy. There’s so much joy to the Santa myth, but the best Santa stories have more than a little bit of sadness in them. The best Santas understand that things can be tough, that life is not simple. The best Santas can bring ecstatic joy, but they also know that the magic of Christmas is brief. This is what you’d get in a sincere, fully committed Berry Santa: an icon of warmth and resignation just doing his best to get through the holidays. He’d be the Santa embodiment of the best line in any Christmas carol: “Until then we’ll have to muddle through somehow.”
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