Jack Whitehall, O2 Arena, review: the 'posh' stand-up on Gemma Chan and the fart that broke his heart

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Likeable: Jack Whitehall at the O2 Arena
Likeable: Jack Whitehall at the O2 Arena Credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns

Love and marriage, love and marriage, go together like a horse and carriage. Alas, so do stand-up comedy and a big break-up, and Jack Whitehall inevitably got some mileage out of his recent split in the first of three nights at London’s O2 Arena, on his Stood Up tour.

What makes it more interesting is that Whitehall, the widely loved star of Fresh Meat, Travels with My Father and A League of Their Own used to be one half of a celebrity couple. This was his first proper break-up, he confessed, to roughly 20,000 people. For six years, he added, he had been going out with TV and film star Gemma Chan. Or rather, he didn’t mention her name. But we all knew anyway.

Jack Whitehall with Gemma Chan in 2012 Credit: Eamonn McCormack/Getty Images

It was the worst kind of break-up, as well, he said – “It was amicable.” He at least wanted to be hated, he wailed. “I wanted to be Adeled.” Now, you would have to know your celebrity break-ups to even get that joke (the album 21, which made Adele a star, was almost all about a traumatic break-up), but pretty much the whole arena laughed.

Whitehall has long been a comedian who puts his family affectionately through the mincer for comic effect but Chan used to get a free pass. He wouldn’t talk about her because she didn’t like it and “I might get in trouble”, he told me when I interviewed him in 2017. Well, that stricture has certainly lost its power, and he built a routine out of the difficulty of sharing a flat while they transitioned to being “just friends”. Chan took to farting in front of him (“it sounded like a bottle of San Pellegrino opening”), in order to make herself less attractive to him but, he said, it “only made me love her more”.

Jack Whitehall is an altogether likeable presence – it’s one of the secrets of his ability to fill a stadium this large, and he maintained a close rapport with his audience throughout, talking to them, teasing them, sending himself up in a way that suggests he’s the only one not in on the joke. He used to struggle with the abuse he got for being “posh” – here, he made a running joke of mispronouncing mass market brands, seemingly obliviously, as he played the everyman who shops at “Lie-dl”, flies by “Rhian-air” and eats at “Nandoss”.

Jack Whitehall Performs At The O2 Arena, London Credit: Ollie Millington/Redferns

He can be subtle, but he’s also a very physical comedian, and camps it up in a manner that – while not quite reaching Kenneth Williams/Larry Grayson/Julian Clary proportions – in its little skips and hand gestures mimics and pays homage to the wonderful place that camp has in the history of stand-up.

His material took us to some familiar places: vegans copped it, as ever, as did the lactose-intolerant, and the “morbidly jolly”, but his takes were generally fresh. He also made little sorties towards controversial territory, concentration camps and mosques featured, but he never really offends. He poked fun at performing for Charles and Camilla, for instance, but went nowhere near the royal story that is currently obsessing the nation.

The weakest moment was the big finale, in which dancers and fireworks were employed in an all-singing, all-dancing nativity number that involved filmed sections with Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Webber (doing a pale variation of the David Bowie/Ricky Gervais “Chubby little loser” skit). It no doubt cost the most money, but Whitehall should probably ditch it. Oddly, in consequence, the show needed its surprise coda to send an audience who had laughed all the way through home on a high. I won’t spoil it.

Jack Whitehall’s Stood Up tour continues until Jan. Details: www.jackwhitehall.com