Hello, dealer? Yes, please, put it all on Berry.
Illustration: by Carolyn Figel
It’s a New Year and a new variant, and with that comes the need for new ways to plug Matt Berry into the areas of our culture that could use a little more zhuzh. On Tuesday, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that this year’s ceremony will feature a host, and two days later, they posted a tweet so silly, so crazed, and so unnecessary it makes me wonder if they’ve even read our numerous columns about Berry’s many talents: “Hypothetically, if we asked you who would you want to host the Oscars, and this is strictly hypothetical, who would it hypothetically be?” Why would they need to ask this? Have they not paid good money to download a VPN so they can illegally watch all of Toast of Tinseltown in the U.S. within 24 hours of its release? Is this an academy of rubes? Clearly, Matt Berry should host the Oscars.
Oscar hosts come in all different genres. There are your big-personality hosts like Whoopi Goldberg and your old-school showmen like Billy Crystal or Hugh Jackman; there’s also Ellen; and then there are the Oscar hosts I prefer: the people who strut onstage Regina King–style, make some warm and funny remarks, then make this show happen so I can go to bed. Berry would excel at this because of how little he would care about doing it. There would be no attempts to make it about himself or to show off in front of Hollywood royalty. He likely would not know who half the nominees and presenters even are. If you told him, he’d do an angry little shrug or something and ask if Glenn Close is here and if she’d dance to his synth cover of “Da Butt.” You can get a taste for Berry’s experience commanding a stage if you check out his performances for Letters Live, a live event series in the U.K. in which performers read interesting letters to raise money for literacy.
Berry’s got everything an Oscar host needs in this clip: a strong presence, a loud voice, and the ability to read. This is the kind of no-frills hosting that could make for a dignified, refreshing 90-minute Oscar ceremony. But if you want a bit or two, Berry can deliver. He’s made several in-character appearances at other live charity events, and the character he plays tends to line up with whatever the public knows him for at the time. For the 2012 Secret Policeman’s Ball in New York City, he was mainly famous for Snuff Box and The IT Crowd, so he appeared as a version of the wicked-horny idiots he plays in both of those series.
More recently, Steven Toast has been Berry’s go-to persona for public appearances. For 2017’s Comic Relief telethon in London, he announced the show as Toast and even did a little comedy skit for the occasion.
Having the Oscars hosted by a character from a U.K. comedy series that can’t (legally) be watched in the U.S. might be confusing for viewers, but there is a character Berry plays that Americans everywhere know, love, and trust. That’s right — he could be regular human Oscar host Jackie Daytona. People would freak out! He could “murder” celebrities who want to be in a funny bit (“Don’t worry, Nicolas Cage is slumped over in his seat for completely normal celebrity reasons and not because I’ve drained all the blood from his bodyyy”). He could mix drinks onstage. He could wear a hat. He could normalize wearing black nail polish to the Oscars. It would be insane. And this is what the Oscars need now: to lean hard into the insanity of watching actors hand each other awards for doing movies while the world around us dies. Why not have that night hosted by a fictional vampire played by a reluctant celebrity?
The only acceptable reason the Academy has not already booked Berry for this role is he’d hate the idea with every fiber of his being. Berry, like a KN95 mask, is hard to get. But that’s why our federal government should mobilize and use the resources at its disposal to increase the supply of Berry content available to us in the United States of America. Since the government is probably unwilling to use military force to acquire more imported Berry content, an act of Congress is likely what it will take. We can call it the Oscars Host Defense Act, and it would state that Matt Berry is the host of the 2022 Oscars, earmark numerous subsidies for his personal use to make it worth his while, and lightly suggest that should he refuse this offer, there would be consequences. Nothing major — just, like, every time Berry enters the U.S., he gets a parking-ticket-level summons for refusing to host the Oscars or something. He doesn’t have to pay it; the hope is that the minor annoyance of being handed a small slip of paper whenever he goes through Customs somehow motivates him to just get this over with.
Awards season will probably never again be what it once was. People are watching live TV less and less, and even the Golden Globes have become just a Twitter thread. This is a jarring change in a time of constant jarring changes. It’s scary when nothing feels secure or predictable, but maybe the Oscars can give us something familiar that subverts itself: a host who’s also a reluctant king, who might make a few dry jokes or do a bit or two and then let us rest. A man who will bring gravitas to the ceremony and whose detachment will remind us this whole thing is just for fun and isn’t real. A man with a loud voice who likely doesn’t even know what an Oscar looks like. Give us Matt Berry.