Interview: Creator and star of Toast Of London Matt Berry
The former Mighty Boosh actor discusses making sex faces for new series
Former London Dungeon actor Matt Berry has seen enough failure to build the perfect luvvie monster in Toast of London. Brian Donaldson talks to him about sex faces and Clem Fandango
One thing might strike Toast of London fans on witnessing the opening episode of series two: Steven Toast’s sex face has really upped its game. Creator and star Matt Berry has ploughed his own comedic furrow when it comes to expressing sexual ecstasy / depravity in The IT Crowd and the first serving of Toast with eyes rolling back into his skull and face-cheeks contorting like billy-o. But now, it’s been taken to a whole new orgiastic level: think a cuddly St Bernard shaking itself dry after a soaking in a public park or private quarters.
‘We used slow motion,’ reveals Berry. ‘When we were editing the first series, we’d often pause during the sex scenes and faces were the funny thing, so we thought we should try to capture that. And the best way to do that would be to slow it all down and get the same effect. I’m fine with seeing myself like that: I don’t give a hoot. You’re not meant to be cool; you’re supposed to be a clown and a gargoyle.’
Matt Berry has become somewhat ubiquitous in recent times popping up in Vic ‘n’ Bob’s House of Fools after his successful stint as the hapless sexual predator and ill-fitting corporate magnate Douglas Reynholm in The IT Crowd. Further back, he excelled as zoo proprietor Dixon Bainbridge for The Mighty Boosh and weirded us out with the bleakly dark sketch show Snuff Box. But the work which has perhaps best informed Toast of London are the voiceover duties he’s been performing of late: an amusingly profane spoof nature documentary as part of the BBC iPlayer Original Comedy Shorts selection for one, while listeners to Absolute Radio will be familiar with his sonorous tones roughly every 12 or 13 minutes on their 80s and 90s retro shows.
In Toast of London, Berry’s tragic actor (well, ac-tor) is frustrated by the lack of recognition for his talents but in order to earn a crust, he occasionally undertakes some soulless voiceover work at a painfully hip Soho ad agency. There, he is ritually humiliated at the hands of young media types such as Clem Fandango. ‘You’d think that those characters are caricatures, but they’re not,’ insists Berry. ‘They really do exist. I’ve been doing voiceovers for nearly ten years and I’ve come across a fair few Clem Fandangos, so those bits are not difficult to write.’
As pompous and daft as he can be, Steven Toast would be a difficult character to play or watch without finding something in him to like. But where, and what, is it? ‘He’s a pain in the arse, because he’s so full of himself, which is always irritating, confirms Berry. ‘Obviously, we look and sound the same but he is very bitter with his lot; he thinks he should be a lot more famous and successful than he is, whereas I think I’m lucky to still be getting away with it. The pathos comes from the fact that he keeps getting fucked over in these pretty extreme ways and you do think “why can’t something nice happen to this guy?” He gets away with behaving so badly because you know that he’s just had enough. Hopefully because of that, you don’t hate the character.’
Toast of London series two starts on Channel 4 in early November.