Jack Whitehall: Settle Down - The O2 Arena
Tom Lucy, 26 years old (I didn’t look that up – that’s how old he said he was, and I’m taking him at his word), gave possibly the shortest warmup comedy set I’ve seen for a long time. Granted, the vast majority of live standup comedy I see is at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe, where there are seldom warmup acts, because every comedian has their own one-hour show (and they’ll more often than not give you suggestions at the end on who else on the Fringe audiences should see if time and money allow). He began by telling us that he comes across as a ‘bit camp’, to the point where he had to ‘come in’ to his parents – that is, confirm he wasn’t gay. Then his banter with the front row was pretty standard fare: I often think of the late Cilla Black hosting Blind Date when she would ask contestants, “What’s your name and where d’ya come from?” And in less than ten minutes, introductions complete, he’d handed over to the evening’s main act, and the name on everyone’s tickets, Jack Whitehall.
Entry to The O2 Arena wasn’t too bad either – I was seeing a concert at the smaller Indigo venue towards the end of May when Micky Flanagan was in the arena, and the queues to get into the main arena were pretty horrific. Even the venue’s website predicted possible queuing times of up to an hour. In the end, I was through in less than five minutes – they apparently have a new system of getting people through. I’ve no idea how it compares to what they had previously, as the procedure was the same, if not more thorough: for the first time at The O2 I was properly patted down. Still, I turned my nose up at the food and drink prices, and afterwards grabbed something at a Tesco Express about two minutes away from the main entrance to the arena building. Thank goodness for mobile telephony, otherwise I’d have been a bit bored for seventy minutes – the time between me getting into the arena and the time the show started.
Also, the thing to do to avoid being on an overcrowded crowded Jubilee line Tube train on the way back is simply head into the station anyway and just wait until enough people have crammed onto enough trains. Then just walk in to a sufficiently empty Tube train and sit down. It doesn’t take as long as you think and would still be faster and cheaper getting into central London than those Uber Boat / Thames Clipper services, which have a nasty habit in any event of leaving before everybody who wants to use the boats has had a chance to walk to the pier. The other tactic, if going westbound from North Greenwich, is to take an eastbound train to Canning Town and double back. I might have joined some others going into the All Bar One at The O2 after the show, but, as Simply Red puts it, money’s too tight to mention.
Anyway, Jack Whitehall has settled down in Settle Down – there’s a baby on the way, with his partner Roxy Horner due to give birth on September 11. His father Michael had a characteristically sardonic reply to the idea that the date coincides with annual commemorations for the victims of terror in the United States in 2001. I’d tell you what he said (or what Jack said he said) but I’ve had a household comedian name or two in my time ask me (civilly and politely, not through a cease and desist letter issued through their lawyer or anything like that) to delete certain punchlines from my writeups because I’d given too much away. Fair enough.
Pre-show, there were video clips of Whitehall’s various exploits: interactions with his dad got the biggest cheers from the audience. The interval saw a ‘kiss cam’ roaming around the arena, which some may have found cheap and gimmicky: others thought it was a highlight. Whitehall continued his long-running angst about other people who attended the same schools he did getting more attention in the mainstream press – there was a lengthy rant in one of his previous tours about Robert Pattinson – and there was an amusing recollection of his experiences on safari.
There was, perhaps unusually for a Jack Whitehall gig, a moment of pure seriousness and poignancy, in talking about how Roxy was first diagnosed with insulin-dependent diabetes, having collapsed at the Brit Awards. The collapse, of course, came before the diagnosis, so at the time, when she was admitted to A&E, he didn’t know if she would even make it. Roxy’s ex is none other than Leonardo DiCaprio – Whitehall couldn’t resist a dig at the Hollywood star for dumping successive girlfriends to trade them in for a younger one. A set piece about going to dinner at a restaurant without companions had me in stitches, as did his (feigned) annoyance at Roxy’s television viewing habits.
But such was his effusiveness about being back in Britain after spending some time in the United States that I wonder what he told his American audiences about us. They’re overwhelmingly positive over there, he says, feeling that he had more satisfaction performing at The O2 because he had worked to get the audience onside – and keep us there. Well, starting just after 7:30pm and finishing just after 9:30pm was another plus. Or maybe I’m just getting old.