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Jack Whitehall: Nearly Rebellious - Fringe 2009

Note: This review is from 2009

Review by Steve Bennett

If E4 was to sit down and design from scratch the comic with perfect youth appeal, they would probably have come up with Jack Whitehall. With quirky haircut, skinny jeans and white T-shirt, he looks every inch the part, so add an immensely animated delivery, and an attitude of ‘I may be middle-class but I’m still misunderstood’ and you can see why his TV career has soared.

Burgeoning fame hasn’t always coincided with his development as a stand-up, however, and since he burst on to the scene a couple of years ago, he has variously affected the mannerisms and style of Stewart Lee and Michael McIntrye.

Even now, he’s still to find his voice, as his Edinburgh debut is a triumph of on technique over soul. But my, what technique. And what triumph.

Only born in 1988, he has already mastered the craft of delivery. He’s a whirlwind of slightly camp physicality, of enforced passion, of big, demonstrative gestures, of the snap characterisations of the people who populate his stories. He’s slick with his audience banter, fluid with his prepared material, compelling to watch.

The material isn’t always so assured, and certainly not nearly as distinctive. Lazy quips about behaving inappropriately in the Anne Frank museum, of the gentlemen terrorists who ring in advance and about swine flu meaning you only need sneeze to get a Tube carriage to yourself have already been well-covered by other comedians.

Yet there are moments of greater inspiration. He has a cracking Apprentice joke, a running gag about fellow youth presenter George Lamb is deliciously outrageous while mention of his reactionary dad Michael – whom the 21-year-old still wants to impress despite his bigotries – proves a rich seam of material. As is so often the case, personal issues resonate so much stronger than pat observational comments.

The theme of Whitehall’s show turns out to be that he can’t really rail against the system, while his right-wing father is the real rebel in an increasingly tolerant society. Well, his cosmopolitan middle-class part of it, anyway; Whitehall can be blinkered about the bigger picture.

But while it’s easy to pick holes in his thinking, and his lack of true distinctiveness, there is so much to enjoy in Whitehall’s hugely entertaining and charmingly likeable performance. Even if it does appear slightly insincere, the relentless swell of energy sweeps even the most curmudgeonly up in its wake.

Review date: 29 Aug 2009
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett

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