Jack Whitehall is a bit of a Marmite comedian, although you do get the impression that his detractors are more annoyed that he’s young, good-looking and funny than being bothered about the edge of smugness that some accuse him of. He’s certainly come a long way in a short time, with this DVD documenting his Wembley gig, which was part of a huge arena tour that attracted audiences in the 10s of thousands. And he’s still only 26.
As with many young comedians who become a big headline act, there is undoubtedly a sense that he’s still learning his trade and coming into his own. That’s particularly clear by his reliance on ‘mistakes’, which probably work well when you’re watching him live, but on DVD it’s clear that these are not mistakes at all, or at least perhaps they were at one point during the tour but have now been woven into the act and are now very deliberate. Comedians making deliberate mistakes is extremely common, but it shouldn’t look like that’s what they’re doing.
I was also initially worried that Getting Around was going to fall into the trap that many comedians who’ve become famous get stuck in, where their act essentially becomes about their fame and all the cool people they’ve met. You can understand why it happens, as modern stand-up tends to rely on people dissecting their own lives, but unless carefully handled, when the act becomes about a comedian’s own success it can lose the important common ground with the audience and feel a bit like an ego trip.
Luckily though before he starts getting too tedious, Whitehall pulls it back and gets into more universal and fun territory such as his love of The Lion King and his relationship with his family. When he sticks to that he is very funny and able to hold the stage even when he is in a cavernous arena. It was a smart idea to do the tour in the round, with Jack in the middle and the audience surrounding him, as it allows the whole thing to feel far more intimate than you’d expect.
When Jack’s at his best is when he allows his almost child-like silliness out – an admission that just because you’ve got a bit older it doesn’t mean you have to stop enjoying the things of childhood and giggling at nonsense. When he’s doing that he’s incredibly endearing and funny.
There are times when the act relies slightly too much on the fact Jack is rather camp and that he’s gay in all ways except for the sleeping with men part. Although a little overdone it works largely because Whitehall is well aware that the joke is on him and that it wouldn’t matter if he was gay, he just isn’t. Indeed there are moments where it almost accidentally hits on smart points about the difference between personality and sexuality that are often clumped together in people’s heads.
I think that Whitehall still hasn’t hit the heights of what he could potentially be. With Getting Around it’s clear that he has the potential to be very smart, incredibly funny and immensely likable, but while he’s very entertaining it’s difficult to escape the feeling he still has potential to be even better and that here we’re only getting about 80% of what he has the potential to be.
And it certainly doesn’t hurt that he’s very cute.
Overall Verdict: Whitehall’s latest live DVD is a fun ride and often very funny, but his reliance on crutches such as deliberate mistakes means it feels that Jack’s still a talent in the making rather than one who’s already everything he could be.
Reviewer: Tim Isaac