Jack Whitehall: Stood Up
- Jay Richardson
- 26 November 2019
An out of touch show from a comic who displays some surprisingly reactionary viewpoints with little to say
Opening with a glittering, razzmatazz spectacle of dry ice, pyrotechnics and dancers, Jack Whitehall's singing from The Greatest Showman certainly makes for an arena-worthy introduction. But it also betrays a weakness for style over substance that persists throughout this entire performance.
Since emerging on the stand-up circuit and breaking into television and films, privately educated Whitehall has cannily owned his privilege. One of his initial anecdotes is about performing at Prince Charles' Christmas party, complete with photographic evidence of the stand-up and his family meeting the Prince and Duchess of Cornwall. The story might be angled towards the comic's humiliation, but the whiff of elitism still lingers. Whitehall is endearingly embarrassed about the long line of exploitative bastards he's descended from, dredged up by his recent episode of Who Do You Think You Are? but it can be a struggle to get onboard with the hero worship for his crotchety, conservative father Michael. Still, it's his dad's mention and occasional recorded contributions tonight that prompt the loudest cheers. And one must guard against class resentment.
But despite knowing precisely what his audience wants and the persona he's expected to inhabit, Whitehall appears conversely out of touch, his observational material leaden and clichéd. He wouldn't be the first arena comic to come off the pace while focusing on his screen career. But at 31, he's certainly among the youngest. Scoffing at vegans for their political correctness, deliberately awkward around transgender people, and inventing a conversation with a pseudy caricature who's named her daughter Isis, Whitehall flirts with the clunkiest stereotypes and reactionary, Little Englander fogeyness. All of which is bizarre given the rarefied, globe-trotting horizons his career affords him.
His notions on the eccentrically stocked centre aisle of Lidl and the misguided aspirations of Wetherspoon could shame the hackiest circuit act, snobbishly-inflected or otherwise. Meanwhile, a running gag in which he struggles to pronounce the commonplace names of high street stores soon gets tiresome. Such is the straitjacketing confines of his character that he even gigglingly pretends to be a hapless, marijuana-taking ingénue, when he's previously been candid about his cocaine use in the press.
Playing the flighty, popinjay toff has proved career-making for Jack Whitehall. But on this evidence, it's increasingly straining his credibility as a stand-up with anything sincere or remotely interesting to say.
Jack Whitehall: Stood Up is on tour until Friday 10 January. Seen at The Hydro, Glasgow.