Force Matt Berry to host the Oscars

Hello, trader? Yes, please, put it all on Berry.
Illustration: by Carolyn Figel

It’s a new year and a new variant, and with it 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 foolish, so deranged, and so unnecessary that I wonder if they’ve read our numerous columns on Berry’s many talents: could it be hypothetical?” Why should they ask this? Didn’t they pay well to download a VPN so they can watch everything illegally? Tinseltown toast in the US within 24 hours of release? Is this an academy of rubes? Obviously Matt Berry has to host the Oscars.

Oscar hosts come in all different genres. There’s 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’s the Oscar hosts that I love the most: the people who shine Regina King style on stage, make some warm and funny comments, and then let this show happen so I can go to bed. Berry would excel at this because he would care so little about it. No attempts would be made to talk about themselves or show off for Hollywood royalty. He probably wouldn’t know who half of the nominees and presenters are. If you told him, he’d shrug angrily 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 of Berry’s stage driving experience when you watch his performances for Letters live, a series of live events in the UK in which artists read interesting letters to raise money for literacy.

Berry has 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-nonsense hosting that could make for a dignified, refreshing 90-minute Oscar ceremony. But if you want a little or two, Berry can supply it. He has made several character appearances at other live charity events, and the character he plays usually aligns with what the public knows him from at the time. For the 2012 Secret Policeman’s Ball in New York City, he was most famous for: snuff box and The IT crowd, so he appeared as a version of the wicked horny idiots he plays in both series.

More recently, Steven Toast has been Berry’s go-to persona for public appearances. For 2017 Comic relief telethon in London, he announced the show as Toast and even did a small comedy skit for the occasion.

If the Oscars are hosted by a character from a British comedy series who cannot (legally) be watched in the US, it can be confusing for viewers, but there is a character Berry plays everywhere that Americans everywhere know, love and trust. That’s right – he could be an ordinary human Oscar host Jackie Daytona. People would go crazy! He could “kill” celebrities who want to be funny (“Don’t worry, Nicolas Cage has slumped in his chair for perfectly normal celebrity reasons and not because I’m all the blood out.” bodyyy“). He could mix drinks on stage. He could wear a hat. He was able to normalize wearing black nail polish for the Oscars. It would be disturbed. And here’s what the Oscars need right now: leaning hard into the frenzy of watching actors award each other for making movies as the world dies around us. Why not was that night hosted by a fictional vampire played by a reluctant celebrity?

The only acceptable reason the Academy hasn’t booked Berry for this role yet is that he would hate the idea with every fiber of his being. Berry, like a KN95 mask, is hard to come by. But that is why our federal government must mobilize and use the resources at its disposal to increase the range of Berry content available to us in the United States of America. Since the government is likely unwilling to use military force to acquire more imported Berry content, an act of Congress is likely to be required. We could call it the Oscars Host Defense Act, and it would argue that Matt Berry is hosting the 2022 Oscars, allocating numerous grants for his personal use to make it worthwhile, and lightly suggesting that if he declines this offer , there would be consequences. Nothing major – just every time Berry enters the US he gets a parking ticket level subpoena for refusing to host the Oscars or something. He doesn’t have to pay it; the hope is that the small annoyance of getting a small slip of paper when going through customs somehow motivates him to just do this.

Prize season will probably never be what it once was. People are watching less and less live TV and even the Golden Globes have become just a Twitter thread. This is a shocking change in a time of constant shocking changes. It’s scary when nothing feels safe or predictable, but maybe the Oscars can give us something familiar that undermines itself: a host who’s also an unwilling king, who might make a few dry jokes or do a few things and then let us rest. A man who will bring gravitas to the ceremony and whose detachment will remind us that this is all just for fun and not for real. A man with a loud voice who probably doesn’t even know what an Oscar looks like. Give us Matt Berry.

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