Matt Berry’s no stranger to TV, but his starring turn in FX’s What We Do In The Shadows marks the British comedian’s biggest stateside role to date. As Laszlo, Berry elaborates upon the playboy vampire trope Jemaine Clement toyed with as the original film’s Vladislav. Where Clement is silken, though, Berry is bold, his booming baritone conveying a regality that clashes hilariously with his baser, more profane tendencies. As he’s proven time and again throughout his career, Berry also plays well with others, with our own Danette Chavez praising his chemistry with co-stars Natasia Demetriou and Kayvan Novak as “enviable; no matter what the configuration, the results are gut-busting.”
Truly, Berry was born in the wrong century, as his cadence and princely mane lend themselves to the open-air stages of the Elizabethan era. He’s made it work for him, however, developing a style that bends his theatrical air to both the highest and lowest brows of U.K. comedy. His career contains multitudes—The IT Crowd, Disenchantment, Duncan Jones’ Moon—but, as a treat on the heels of last night’s premiere, we’re here to share a few of our favorite Berry performances.
Toast Of London’s pilot debuted in August of 2012, and its three subsequent seasons have seen Berry’s Steven Toast spiral deeper and deeper into the show’s breakneck blend of wit, absurdity, and industry satire. Toast, an ailing, middle-aged actor, tumbles through what feels like six or seven storylines in every 23-minute episode, his sprint towards fame often resulting in financial ruin, humiliation, and, in so, so many cases, actual death. Berry’s hifalutin countenance is used against Toast here, situating the actor as an out-of-time fool in an industry run by hipsters, including the suave, recording engineer Clem Fandango (Shazad Latif). Jon Hamm and Queens Of The Stone Age’s Josh Homme have made random, hilarious cameos, while legendary composer Andrew Lloyd Webber is portrayed as an underhanded heavy.
Also, Toast, which was co-created by Berry, offers the actor a chance to flex his own musical prowess, which isn’t insignificant. He’s got several studio albums under his belt, and caps off each episode of Toast with a parody song that, more often than not, milks a touch of pathos from the character’s mishaps. Check some out below.
After appearing on several episodes of The Mighty Boosh, Berry linked up with comedian Rich Fulcher in 2006 for Snuff Box, a BBC Three sketch series in which the two played executioners in “a gentlemen’s club for hangmen.” There’s plenty of great bits to be found in the episodes, but perhaps the most enduring are the “Boyfriend” sketches, an admittedly one-note bit that, due to Berry’s timing and escalation, only grows funnier with time. Each follows a similar pattern: Berry steps in to perform a favor for a young woman, flirts with her, finds out she has a boyfriend, and immediately bails with a brisk “fuck you.” It’s the perfect distillation of his talents, his suaveness making the meet-cutes as charming as they are groan-worthy—“Well, it has been said that I’m a gentlemen, but never a gentle man”—and his curt flip into the profane serving to satirize the predatory nature of the toxic male. Also, for as simple as the sketches are, they’re brimming with subtle gems—the “piss off” at the two-minute mark of the above video is priceless.
We’ve written about 2004’s short-lived, much-loved Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace before, but it’s worth revisiting for Berry’s absurd, wonderful turn as Dr. Lucien Sanchez. The satirical, low-budget horror soap explored a haunted hospital where the doctors saw more demons than patients, and Berry’s Sanch was often at the center of the series’ best scenes. His portrayal of the roguish, lovelorn sidekick was funny enough, but, as a nod to show-in-the-show’s shoddy production value, the majority of his lines were dubbed in, his already-uncanny voice sounding even more alien when mismatched with his mouth. It also produced what’s probably Berry’s best-known song: “One Track Lover,” a parody of ’80s synth-cheese that’s so much better than it has any right to be. Hear it below.