At 35, Jack Whitehall finds himself settling down as he and his partner are embracing parenthood. But is truly settling down in his third Netflix stand-up special, or is Whitehall merely settling?
The Gist: Filmed over three nights last summer at London’s O2 Arena, Whitehall’s third solo Netflix special and first in four years finds him joking about being the beta male in his relationship, and how that reflects his decisions and reactions when they decide to get a dog and have a child together.
He also jokes about how he went to posh British schools with several other famous alumni, although they somehow are regarded differently than he is by both the mainstream media and their alma mater.
What Comedy Specials Will It Remind You Of?: If anything, Whitehall’s stage antics recall John Cleese’s “Ministry of Silly Walks” from Monty Python.
Memorable Jokes: Opening as he were an AI prompt for a scruffy British take on John Mulaney, Whitehall leads us to believe that he, too, had his friends stage an intervention. Unlike Mulaney, Whitehall didn’t go to rehab. But this bit does segue into Whitehall inviting audience members to shout out their favorite alcoholic beverages so he can respond with his knowledge of their alleged health benefits, and then into a bit about how the rise of non-alcoholic brands is part of a trend that includes fake meats and vaping to replace smoking. “Who the f— is buying non-alcoholic sambuca?” he wonders.
Whitehall acknowledges his hair has gotten long since last we saw him, but mocks himself before you can, saying: “You thought by growing it out you’d look like Kit Harington from Game of Thrones. And instead you’ve wound up looking like a Tesco Value Richard Hammond.”
If only Whitehall, who boasts “I played the O2 Arena, bitch!”, could assuage his own fragile ego, which breaks as he shares through visual aids how his boarding school doesn’t name-drop him, but that the tabloid media is quick to point out in print and photos how he did go to school with Ghislaine Maxwell.
Then things get more personal as he jokes about how his girlfriend and mother of his child previously dated Leonardo Dicaprio, which means neither of them can probably ever watch any of his films again. “She’s had to trade in the Wolf of Wall Street for the Labradoodle of London.” He’s further emasculated comparing himself to one of her other ex-boyfriends who played rugby. Getting a dog and winding up paying 6,000 British Pounds for a toy poodle doesn’t make him feel any more macho. The only time he does feel superior is when they find themselves joined by a Florida family of four on an African safari. There he can tease and make fun of the Floridians, and by proxy conservatives who’ve gotten riled up over a gay character in Beauty and the Beast and a mixed-race Ariel in The Little Mermaid.
Our Take: Whitehall may know he’s joking when he claims, “I can pull off alpha,” and he demonstrates that not only with the “damaged pigeon” pose he’s making when he says that, but also by all of his prancing about onstage throughout the hour.
Part of that physicality might be more necessary to help convey his routines to the fans in the cheap seats of The O2’s 17,000 designed for comedy. But his physicality, energy and storytelling abilities all are among the reasons Whitehall can fill that arena in the first place, where he’s no stranger, having hosted The Brit Awards (the UK’s version of the Grammys) four years in a row from 2018-2021. All of which means Whitehall is one of those celebrities whose fame starring alongside his father in global travels or in the UK on various panel shows is more than enough to fill an arena, and may cover up for what’s otherwise a lack of originality or unique point of view to his choices in observational comedy. Fans are there to see and hear Whitehall no matter what he has to say.
Which is probably why he makes a point of mentioning what his grandmother liked to say: “Opinions are like farts. It’s best to hold them in, because no one’s going to appreciate them as much as you.” Whitehall understands that we all have opinions, but he argues we don’t have to have an opinion about everything, despite our access to social media to share those opinions. And he certainly doesn’t want to read any negative reviews on Twitter. Well, in 2024 there is no Twitter as we knew it. And I’m not active there any longer. So, no worries?!?
Our Call: SKIP IT. Look. Obviously he fills arenas in England so loads of people disagree with me on this, but Whitehall has earned these crowds on account of his skills as an actor, TV panelist and presenter, and not on the basis of his unique voice in stand-up. But what do I know? I’m just an old fart.
Sean L. McCarthy works the comedy beat. He also podcasts half-hour episodes with comedians revealing origin stories: The Comic’s Comic Presents Last Things First.