Interview: Jack Whitehall – 'I really enjoy telling indiscreet stories and oversharing'
As Jack Whitehall veers between blockbuster BBC adaptations and large arena tours, he just wants to thank his mum
'I just swore and talked about my knob: I really needed that release.' This memory of leaving a TV studio where he had been on his best behaviour before letting rip on a live stage is the only time across a 20-minute phone chat that master Jack Whitehall is anything other than courteous and polite. Well, brace yourselves Britain, because this charming man is about to get even more filthy when he launches himself upon a new arena / sizeable theatre tour, Jack Whitehall At Large.
'I really enjoy telling indiscreet stories and oversharing so there'll be plenty of that,' he reveals. 'It will possibly be slightly ruder than I've done before. When you've been working in the confines of TV taste and decency, and where someone else is editing it, there's something about stand-up that makes you just want to go on and say whatever you want.'
This unleashing of the Whitehall beast is looming before us after a summer filming the starring role of Paul Pennyfeather in a BBC adaptation of Evelyn Waugh's Decline and Fall alongside the likes of David Suchet and Eva Longoria ('it's something that my mum will watch'), another step on the way to him quite probably taking over the world.
So, were someone to put a gun to his head (let's hope it never comes to this) and demands that he chooses a career in either stand-up or acting, which would it be? 'It depends at what point the person was putting the gun to my head,' he responds gamely. 'So if it was right at the end of this tour I'd easily say acting. But right now, I really am so excited about doing stand-up again and doing gigs.'
Whitehall-watchers will have encountered Jack's dad Michael from their joint talk show, Backchat, but during our conversation, he namechecks his mother more. It certainly seems that she has been a guiding light for parts of his comedy. 'She influences my comedy in that I'm very much her son and we're still very close. I've learned a lot from her; she's a very patient woman, and she's very good about me talking about her or my family on stage. They're all very understanding which I'm very thankful for; it would be difficult if they were not as I talk about them a lot.'
In three consecutive years, Whitehall was named as the 'King of Comedy' via a public vote at the British Comedy Awards, and to put right some who see him as just that guy from Fresh Meat or Bad Education, he's no stand-up novice. His live comedy career began a decade ago and having performed at five Edinburgh Fringes, he's now on his second major tour after 2014's Jack Whitehall Gets Around (he performed his set in the round).
Having paid those early dues by working the small clubs and pub circuit, he's clearly relishing the opportunity to step out in front of substantial numbers of people once again. And with the promise embedded in his press release that there will be 'comedy pyrotechnics', those crowds could be in for a hair-raising treat.
'I've pitched some fairly outlandish ideas to my production designer so we'll see if some of them come to fruition. I think there will certainly be a fairly spectacular beginning to the night which I think is the least I can do. If you come out and have paid for a ticket, I think you should put on a proper show. I'm going to give them … let's call it razzmatazz.'
Jack Whitehall At Large, Edinburgh Playhouse, Wed 11 & Fri 12 Jan; Clyde Auditorium, Glasgow, Wed 1–Fri 3 Feb, and touring.