Tayla Swiff

How Matt Rogers Became The Prince Of Christmas

The comedian discusses his favorite Yuletide pop stars.

Elite Daily; Showtime; Terence Patrick/CBS/Chris Haston/NBC/NBCU Photo Bank/ANGELA WEISS/AFP via Getty Images

In Elite Daily’s series Early Influences, artists reflect on the songs and albums that left a lasting impression on them in their formative years. Here, Matt Rogers shares the artists who inspired his Showtime comedy special, Have You Heard of Christmas?

Matt Rogers’ Santa is Mariah Carey. “[She got] a lot more airtime than Santa did,” says Rogers of Carey at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. Rogers doesn’t just love Carey. He idolizes her business savvy. So much so that he’s ending a banner year with a holiday comedy special functioning, in part, as an ode to the pop star.

Have You Heard of Christmas?, which premiered Dec. 2 on Showtime, is the TV iteration of Rogers’ long-running live comedy show of the same name. He’s touring the live show through Dec. 23, and the TV version is composed of nine original Christmas songs (as well as a few taped comedy bits) brimming with Rogers’ signature take-driven, pop culture-obsessed humor. Rogers co-wrote the songs with Henry Koperski, his piano accompanist in the special and on tour. Koperski is also Rogers’ ex-boyfriend.

The TV special is Rogers’ coronation following the biggest year of his career. In the spring, he appeared in the Showtime series I Love That for You. Then, in June, he co-starred in the history-making gay rom-com, Fire Island. All the while, he’s hosted the adored Las Culturaistas podcast with Saturday Night Live’s Bowen Yang.

With Have You Heard of Christmas?, Rogers is ending 2022 on a high note — literally. The comedian gives main Yuletide pop girl energy, singing about the beauty of the Rockefeller Center Christmas tree and Mrs. Claus’ scorn about Santa leaving for his annual work trips. It’s only a matter of time until Pop Crave announces Rogers “looks beautiful” in all his pop star glory.

Below, Rogers chats about his obsession with Mariah’s Christmas obsession, his first time meeting Kelly Clarkson, and his thoughts on Tayla Swiff vs. Taylor Swift. (There’s a difference.)

Mariah Carey
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Rogers ideated Have You Heard of Christmas? in 2016 when he was an up-and-coming New York comedian. While watching an interview with Carey, he noticed the interviewer marvel at the economic success of “All I Want for Christmas Is You.” Carey had found a way to annually make money based on a genuine creative project. She’s not the only one. Pop stars of every generation — Brenda Lee, Wham!, *NSYNC, and Ariana Grande, among many cheery others — have tried out a ubiquitous Christmas song.

Rogers quickly identified a comedic character to inhabit within this trend. That night and all thanks to Carey, the character of Matt Rogers — a comedian-turned-pop star shamelessly shilling a Christmas album — was born.

“It’s a documentation of me trying to join Mariah Carey as the Queen of Christmas,” he says of the special. “I’m trying to become the Prince of Christmas.”

Carey also informed Rogers’ singing style. For the special’s steamy ballad (every good pop star needs one), he dons a long caramel wig and gyrates a top a piano while sensually singing from the perspective of Martha Mae Whovier — the “hottest female up in Whoville.” Yes, this is a reference to Christine Baranski’s Real Housewives-esque character in How the Grinch Stole Christmas.

Rogers commits to Carey’s bit, finding both the humor and talent in her riffs and belts. “A whistle tone coming out of Mariah Carey is very funny to me,” he says. “I would like to think that the inflections and the sort of melisma and a sort of vocal attitude that she uses is [in my performance style] because I’m such a student of it — a fan.”

Taylor Swift
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To turn his comedy concepts into lyrics, Rogers studied performers known for descriptive storytelling. To his surprise, Rogers realized that some of the best comedians — Maya Rudolph, Andy Samberg, and Cecily Strong — are natural singers. “You wouldn’t think of them as singers, but there is a built-in commitment and a built-in zest for what they’re doing,” he says.

Of course, any pop songwriting story must include a Taylor Swift mention. Sorry, a Tayla Swiff mention. As fans — readers, as he call them — of Rogers’ podcast already know, he believes Taylor Swift has two personas. There’s Taylor Swift (the IRL woman) and Tayla Swiff (the pop star). Taylor loves cats, Joe Alwyn, and London. Tayla loves sold-out tours, Easter eggs, and also London.

“This is me at my most Tayla,” he says of the special. His character is fixed on money and acclaim. That’s not the only Tayla similarity. “You can also tell that in some of the hip action — I sort of do have an iconic white girl stomp in the show,” he says. “Very much like Tayla, [and] I do say that with all the love in my heart.”

Kelly Clarkson
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Though Carey and Swift informed the character of Matt Rogers, another pop star informed the man who grew up on Long Island in the early aughts. “I feel like every gay man may pick someone to stan at age 12, and they stick with them forever,” he says.

Listen to an episode of his podcast, and it’s clear Kelly Clarkson had an indelible impact on him. He told her as much while appearing on her talk show earlier this month to promote the special. The big headline? He kept it together, even when Clarkson asked during a commercial break if she lived up to his expectation. She more than did.

“That energy that she seemed to sear through the screen when we were all watching her on American Idol has really stayed intact,” he says. “She really is America’s sweetheart. She walks that walk, and I just could not have had a better experience. I really couldn’t.”

Clarkson, like Carey and Swift, has a Christmas record. She has two, actually. Will Rogers will join their ranks? While the songs from Have You Heard of Christmas? are not available to stream or buy, that might change soon.

“It may not be ready to purchase yet, but people should stay tuned on that one,” he says. “Just like Mariah, my Christmas brand will grow year to year.”