It’s been a big year for 22-year-old comedian Jack Whitehall, so as he gets ready for his first mini tour, is it time to take a breath?
Think you’ve seen a lot of Jack Whitehall? Hasn’t the blue-eyed public schoolboy appeared on just about every comedy quiz/panel/stand-up show on television? Um, well, like, yeah, as the boy himself would say, charmingly modest. It’s kind of, um, like, how you would expect a 22-year-old to speak. And I guess, he won’t, like, mind me pointing it out. Because, it’s, like, part of his schtick: self-deprecating posh boy struggles to make his way in the big, bad world. Dropping his consonants all the way.
You can see why the producers of Mock the Week, Never Mind the Buzzcocks and Have I Got News For You are hungry to get him to appear. When he bounced into their consciousness at the Fringe in 2007, he was a breath of fresh air. He picked up the “edgy” card whilst hosting Big Brother’s Big Mouth for E4 the next year, and has barely paused for breath since.
Precocious? Not really. Talented? Most definitely. Hard-working – oh, yes. And here is the conflict; modern media demands so much, so soon. Sometimes, after a feeding frenzy, the victim is spat back out. Fortunately for Jack, a careful upbringing by his actor’s agent father Michael and actress mother Hilary, and a fine education at Marlborough College (the same school as Kate Middleton, now Duchess of Cambridge, although they were in different years), have produced a clever lad.
Jack seems to have a realistic perception about himself and how the system works. “I think I’ve been accelerated to where I am a little quickly and I might have to play catch up at times. But I’m not complaining, I’m very fortunate to get to do what I love doing,” he enthuses. “I feel like I take a step in the right direction every year, but I still have so much to learn.”
Indeed. He may speak like an old pro at times, but despite all his awards and TV appearances, the mini stand-up tour, entitled Let’s Not Speak of This Again, which takes in the Fringe, will be his first. It covers the theme of growing up. “Trying to be independent is now a big part of my life,” he says. “Finding someone else to look after me, too – to replace my mother – which is what I’ve being doing for the last year, with very little success.”
Meanwhile, life is a constant round of work, travel, work. In July, when I speak to him, he is rehearsing for his first major acting role in a new Channel 4 sitcom called Fresh Meat. It’s about a student flatshare in Manchester. He was a student who shared a flat in Manchester, but he insists the character is not like him.
Then there’s his other Edinburgh show to get ready. Jack will also be trying his hand at a chat show – with his dad, 71. Back Chat will see them both interview a Fringe performer.
He is clearly delighted at the prospect. “Talking about my dad has dominated a lot of the material in two of my shows so I thought it was the best way to get closure on it. He is funniest when he is out of his comfort zone, meeting people he wouldn’t normally meet, so that’s what the show will involve.”
He’s happy to admit being ambitious: “But not in an aggressive way, I just like to do stuff. I probably say yes to too much but I’ve learned that when I don’t push myself I get frustrated, sitting around and thinking I could be working.”
So there is a mature man lurking somewhere inside that boyish exterior. But it doesn’t prevent him from lapses into petulance. He has to move out of his apartment because his flatmate is buying a place. He thinks he’ll have to go home. Why? “I don’t know if I would be able to cope on my own; I’m pretty incompetent.” You’re 23 this week.
“Yeah, well, I’m still pretty incompetent. No doubt I’ll change on Thursday, when I’m 23.”
He’s single again, he tells me, always getting dumped. That must be good for his stand-up, I suggest. “No! They always f*cking dump you just after Edinburgh so you can’t write it in,” he pretend rages. “So selfish!”
Jack Whitehall – Let’s Not Speak of This Again,
Venue 150 @ EICC,
18-20, 25-27 August, 9.30pm,
From £13, Tel: 0844 847 1639
Jack Whitehall and his
Father – Back Chat,
24-28 August, 5.10pm,
From £9.50, Tel: 0131 556 6550