Jack of all trades: Whitehall ponders sitcom return
Stand-up speaks to us ahead of this week’s Dubai shows
IF YOU’RE A newcomer to arguably Britain’s must successful currently touring stand-up comedian, Jack Whitehall, then you’d be forgiven for only being aware of the 32-year-old’s sell-out live shows and offbeat Netflix tourism programme Travels With My Father (2017-present); exploring exotic locations with conservative middle-Englander father Michael. However, having risen to UK broadcast notoriety as a funnyman at the early age of 19, there is a vast body of work including panel shows, sitcoms and comedy dramas many of which you can discover on the global streaming platform.
Series including a realistic depiction of student life in Fresh Meat (2011-2016) and more traditional laugh-a-minute half hour, Bad Education (2012-2014), are just two of the standout projects bearing Whitehall’s trademark humour.
“I would love to do a Fresh Meat reunion,” the comedian told us ahead of his UAE performances this week. “The only slight stumbling block is the writers of it now do Succession, which I’ve heard is quite popular. They may be tied up writing an Emmy-winning hit and not want to return to British television.”
Maybe he could appear on the wildly popular Jesse Armstrong black comedy?
“That’s the play! But seriously I’d love to do another TV series at some point and I love sitcoms. That’s definitely still on the agenda.”
Beginning Tuesday, Whitehall embarks on a three-night Dubai run initially onboard the QE2 for a more intimate warm-up gig before moving to Dubai World Trade Centre on Wednesday and Thursday where a sell-out crowd will extend their warmest welcome.
“The last live date for me was my penultimate one of the tour in Australia in February,” he said about missing the craft during 2020. “I wanted to come to Dubai on the way back then, but the pandemic kicked in and halted everything so it has been a long time between the penultimate and final show. I’m delighted to be back in front of a live audience and telling jokes for real people again.”
This week marks Whitehall’s second outing in the city although the first did occur over a decade ago and in slightly less auspicious surrounds.
“I think I did a gig I think in the lobby of a hotel, so I’ve definitely moved up in the world,” he said. “I remember enjoying it as it was my first show abroad.
“It has been surprising, post my show on Netflix, to see quite how small the world is now and reaching new audiences. To be able to go to places like Dubai and play big venues is incredible. It is only really possible because Netflix is a juggernaut.”
Will last year’s events have altered the tour’s material for our performance at all?
“I’m sure I’ll add some Covid stuff and make my jokes Covid friendly. All the characters in them will be socially distanced.
“I think it would be weird not to talk about it. I guess I’ll have to retire the Trump jokes. Although January 20 is still a few days away. It may be the swan song for them.”
A running theme in Travels With My Father is Whitehall’s often overt affection for his dad being dismissed by the elder whose traditional British upbringing conforms to all stereotypes. Having recently hit the headlines for being one of the UK’s first celebrities to take the Covid-19 vaccine as a result of his 80 years of age, we had to ask how England’s most famous father was doing.
“He’s well,” came the reply. “I’d say I’ll soon be able to hug him again, but he wasn’t much of a hugger before. If anything this has really played into his hands.”
The last series of the duo voyaging around Australia only dropped in September, though all being well, the pair are thinking of their next trip.
Hopefully we’ll be able to do one more,” Whitehall said. “I think it would either have to be the UK or Antarctica. I know where I’d rather go but it feels like a negotiation I might lose. It’ll end up being us just going around the Home Counties.”
Travels With My Father season one saw you meet Steven Seagal in South East Asia. What happened when the cameras stopped rolling?
“He’s quite eccentric and forthcoming with his views. We ended up having lunch with him. It was one of the weirdest times ever. He was telling my dad about channelling other people’s power in self-defence; not needing to exert a lot of rage during combat. My dad was nodding away. I was holding in chuckles thinking I don’t think that’s something Michael Whitehall will require even at the Putney Exchange on Black Friday.”
If you’re lucky you may still find a couple of tickets remaining for Tuesday’s QE2 gig via the Dubai Calendar App & Platinum List. Tickets are available in groups of 2/3/4 only and all are priced at Dh295.