Leonard Cohen (1934-2016) told the audience at his 2008 concert at the O2 Arena that he recognised that they had been “geographically and financially inconvenienced”. Heading off to North Greenwich is certainly a bit out of the way, even for people like yours truly that live in London, and the O2 Arena’s stringent ‘no food or drink’ policy does mean pretty much every single trader after security does a roaring trade. Except, perhaps, the popcorn guy, who couldn’t really compete with the hot food outlet I queued up for, with a selection of pizza, chicken strips, chips and other pleasurable staples. Junk food hasn’t gone out of style just yet: not that I would have indulged, but I couldn’t even see a salad option.
Jack Whitehall isn’t doing badly these days. That is, if he ever did ‘badly’, having been born in the private Portland Hospital, attending public school and then – to cut a long story short – becoming well known through a combination of writing, stand-up comedy, television acting and presenting. This stand-up set, Whitehall’s “biggest tour to date”, in his own words, is all very well-drilled and well-rehearsed, and for all its polish and slickness, it somewhat lacks the roughness and ruggedness that the very best of comedians somehow muster even in a borderline soulless arena.
I suspect he’s trying not to repeat what happened on a previous tour, when, on the night the DVD of the said tour was being recorded, he plainly forgot a joke he was telling. And I mustn’t be too negative about someone getting it ‘right’ – the audience, after all, have not paid to see someone screw up. But Whitehall has a way of following up his punchlines with remarks that immediately make one realise that not much, if anything, that he’s just said has even a sliver of truth to it. Put it this way – if you really think he shops at Lidl, you’re an idiot. Mind you, I liked his observations about those conveyor toasters in restaurants in hotels: I must confess I’ve never used one, but I’ve seen others do it, and it’s just not something I have the time or the inclination for. Even when I’m away from home.
There’s a lot of material relating to – well, faecal matter. Would ‘It’s All Shit’ have been a better tour title than ‘Stood Up’? A story about a sign referring to “active diarrhoea”. Another one about when he had problems down below whilst in Cambodia and took a selfie of the affected region to send to his Harley Street doctor. Still another about his now ex-girlfriend who started farting in his company in an attempt to make him love her less. Oh, and one about his father Michael wanting to use the toilet whilst they were out filming on location and there weren’t any conveniences nearby.
There’s no doubting Whitehall’s energy and enthusiasm, however, bouncing and bounding about, giving it his all. And for the most part, he played it safe – for example, he talks about the Prince of Wales but there’s nothing about the Duke of York. A closing video appealed to the musical theatre lover in me, though I wonder if an arena audience at large enjoyed it nearly as much. The various milk alternative options at certain coffee shops were lampooned, as was his mother’s seeming overindulgent relationship with her pet dog. A pleasant and comfortable night out.
London lad, loving life and all that it has to offer.