It’s not an auspicious start to Jack Whitehall’s show when he opens with a crude mime about hard, soft and “thumbing it in” Brexit. Of course, no one’s here for political insight: notwithstanding that he has always come across as the Conservative party in standup form, the state of the world has never been Whitehall’s concern. But even by his own flimsy standards, Stood Up is thin gruel from the 31-year-old, with one flouncing routine after another about diarrhoea, wanking, farting and photographs of his inflamed anus.
Two hours of exposure to that photograph could scarcely be more dispiriting than Whitehall’s touring set, which combines puerility, hack joke-writing and rampant inauthenticity in equal measure. The latter doesn’t concern his poshness, that is as complacently upfront a feature as ever. There’s the obligatory routine about hobnobbing with the Windsors, and a running joke about mispronouncing proley high street brands.
It’s more that his anecdotes frequently ring untrue. That’s because the story details are improbable and he reeks of insincerity. Witness the joke he pretends he told just to test our poor-taste threshold – “and you just passed with flying colours!” Lucky us. Or the camp “aren’t I a naughty boy?” eye-roll that follows various not-very-naughty remarks.
It’s also because Whitehall fails – despite all his shouting and hyperactivity – at the trusty comic trick of convincingly inflating his dismay at minor provocations (his mum’s love for her dog; the “conveyor belt toaster” in hotel restaurants). And because he’s unbelievable as one of life’s fall guys. Here, he’s forced to excavate a hard-to-credit episode from his infancy (about dressing as an emu for the school nativity) to establish his underdog credentials.
No 3D personality arises from these by-numbers jokes, nor any sense of an interest in people or the world. Environmentalism is lightly mocked; there’s a chirpy Auschwitz punchline and a routine about how to speak to people with a lazy eye. And then there’s all those jokes about pooing in the swimming pool, pooing at Chernobyl, farting in front of his ex, farting in a urinal. That Whitehall’s show is full of crap becomes, by the end, less matter of opinion than statement of irrefutable fact.