Rebel With a Cause - Jack Whitehall
This article is from 2009.
Having just left his teens behind, Jack Whitehall has packed loads into his TV CV. He tells Julian Hall how he’ll avoid being just another media twat
Given the small screen and stage swagger and poise of Jack Whitehall, it’s hard to believe that this bright young thing of comedy still lives at home with his parents. This startling fact will be centre stage of his debut solo Fringe show, Nearly Rebellious. ‘In some ways I’m quite mature,’ insists the 20-year-old star of Big Brother’s Big Mouth and The TNT Show. ‘I’m happy to go out and work full-time but in other ways I wouldn’t know how to use a washing machine. The thought of dealing with fabric conditioner scares me.’
As he explains in his show, such fears are a small price to pay for home comfort. However, his domestic bliss came after several attempts to strike out on his own including a chequered university career. ‘The show is broadly about rebellion, and my experience of coming from quite a smothered background and trying to break away from that. For the most part I failed and found myself asking why I wanted to rebel.’ It was a mild kind of resistance that led Whitehall to his first Edinburgh show. Three years ago, aged 17, he and some friends said they wanted to put on a Fringe show but their drama teacher warned against it. ‘He told us it was a total waste of time but we ignored him, found some sponsor money, saw loads of other shows and had the best month of our lives.’
The Fringe spirit kindled, Whitehall has been determined to pick the right time to make his mark with a solo show. On the one hand he didn’t want to do it too early in his stand-up career, and on the other he didn’t want to let TV commitments stop him. Having built up his ‘TV CV’, Whitehall realises that some of his fans at the Fringe will be unaware that stand-up was his first love. ‘I can only imagine what I’d be like in that situation, thinking “let’s see if this dickhead can do stand-up”. To some, it will seem like a TV presenter trying his hand at stand-up, when in fact it’s the other way around.’
TV exposure means there will inevitably be an expectation that Whitehall will make his celebrity status part of his show, something he is keen to dispel. ‘I don’t want to be self-referential or talk about celebrity in the same way that Ricky Gervais or Russell Brand might do, although there is one point in the show where I have a go at George Lamb because he has a really attractive girlfriend.’
The relative infancy of his telly career may help him avoid too much pigeon-holing but, while youth may be on his side in this case, Whitehall says he finds himself straining at the leash to stay young and ‘be a normal person rather than some media twat’.
Jack Whitehall, Pleasance Courtyard, 556 6550, 9–30 Aug (not 11, 18, 25), 7.15pm, £10–£11.50 (£8.50–£10). Previews until 8 Aug, £5.