Stream or skip? +2023

Matt Rogers and Bowen Yang had a hit podcast together (“Las Culturistas”) before Yang emerged as a cast member Saturday night live. Where’s the spotlight for Rogers, tho? Maybe it’s enough to stage your own Christmas musical.

The essentials: It’s been quite a 2022 for Matt Rogers.

After some minor breakthroughs in 2020-2021 (co-hosting Gayme show for Quibi/Roku, hosting Haute Dog for HBO Max, and keep voting/writing Q Force for Netflix) Rogers finally broke out in style this year thanks to juicy roles on Hulu fire island and in Showtime’s i love this for you. Having already found a home on Showtime, he’s now starring in his own Christmas variety class, complete with musical numbers and offstage sketches. Yang emerges for a crucial cameo, while Josh Sharp and Aaron Jackson (The opposition with Jordan Klepper) are also joined for one song by Rogers and accompanist/co-writer Henry Koperski.

What comedy specials will it remind you of?: Catherine Cohen’s Netflix musical was also filmed at Joe’s Pub, with Koperski contributing on the piano.

Memorable Jokes: The musical numbers are punctuated by a series of sketches that follow “Matt Rogers” as he cowardly hopes to be crowned the new Christmas Prince by Mariah Carey, no less. Can his PR team get Carey on the gig? Will a surprise visit to a 10-year-old’s classroom help his cause? The answers may not surprise you.

But it’s the songs that make the musical.

Rogers gives out the track number as a prompt for viewers to ask passers-by, only to reveal his own knowledge of the holiday is on par with John Belushi’s “Bluto.” Animal shelter. Many of his songs about the holidays are downright awesome, even ones in which he imagines Christmas from Mrs. Claus’ perspective, or from Martha May Whovier, portrayed by Christine Baranski from Jim Carrey’s version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

The song, which features Sharp and Jackson, is also NSFW and asks how to respond to family members with invasively microaggressive questions about their sex life as a gay man.

Our opinion: What role does Rogers play in comedy or culture when his podcast bestie Yang is the famous gay and Billy Eichner is already Mariah’s “Christmas gay”?

For this is an hour in which Rogers seeks both to deconstruct and satirize the Christmas industrial shopping complex and to place himself firmly in its firmament. For every moment he brilliantly asks why we didn’t properly celebrate or even appreciate Mrs. Claus (singing his points straight to the camera), there’s another moment he grins or sneaks around singing sultry thirst traps.

He wants it both ways, so to speak. But the thing is, Rogers mostly pulls it off even when he switches back and forth between sentimental and sarcastic, sometimes within the same number. He can make us feel with him and his collaborator Koperski when he addresses “the elephant in the room,” which was their two-and-a-half-year relationship, to then sing a song together about a fictional yearning for a date to Rockefeller Center, around the Christmas tree, and see any number of NBC employees entering or exiting the building. And as he bursts into tears ahead of his finale, acknowledging Koperski for the huge part he played in helping Rogers achieve his dream of filming a special at Joe’s Pub, we fully believe in his sincerity. Only to find that he’s just but really genuinely funny the whole holiday. Regardless of the hole or pole position.

Our appeal: Stream it. This hour Rogers will probably end up on Santa’s Naughty List, but at least he’s on the list now!

Sean L. McCarthy edits the comedy beat for his own digital newspaper, The comic of the comic; before that for real newspapers. Based in NYC but travels everywhere for news: ice cream or news. He also tweets @thecomicscomic and podcasts half-hour episodes featuring comedians revealing origin stories: Comic’s comic presents last things first.

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