Comedian Jack makes a stand

JACK Whitehall's standing as a stand-up comedian is such he can fill national arenas and his TV fame is immense.

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Jack Whitehall
Jack Whitehall

He's currently starring in Bad Education on BBC 3, he's had his own chat show, Backchat, with his dad, countless panel series, and he's not long since completed a

starring role in Channel 4's student comedy drama, Fresh Meat.

However, there's a section of the country which it seems would never tire of slapping the pale cheeks of this cheeky young comic.

Many begrudge the 25-year-old his TV triumphs, his £3million house in Notting Hill and cosy nights in with actress girlfriend Gemma Chan.

He accepts the public school accent plays its part. In a frustrated voice he says journalists, for example, won't separate him from JP, the character he plays in Fresh Meat.

He said: "They often write the line 'Jack Whitehall is good at playing JP - but is he just playing himself? It suggests none of the acting counts. It hurts to think anyone could think I was like him."

Jack can indeed act. JP, with a skin thicker than three copies of Debrett's, works because the actor has imbued him with vulnerability.

But does the young comic get critics' backs up because he's all too self-assured for his years?

We're chatting at his PR company's office, and he doesn't come across as cocky at all. He's polite and relaxed with the shiny stage suit wardrobed for a pair of jeans and a casual jumper.

He's taller than imagined, but with the body of a Sociology student who would struggle to bench press a wild flower.

With the height comes a slight awkwardness, which makes him seem even younger than his years.

And while Whitehall's voice may be redolent of the Raj, he reveals his family didn't fit the middle class identikit drawing.

"My granddad came from a lower middle class family in Beckingham and he sold dresses out of the back of a van," he says. "Life was very much Hyacinth Bouquet, keeping up appearances, being socially mobile.

"My dad (a showbiz agent) then worked incredibly hard all his life and every penny he earned was spent on sending me and my brother and sister to expensive schools. We went on camping holidays because all the money went to the schools." The education bought the posh voice, but not acceptance into the school's elite. Like his comedy hero Norman Wisdom, the young Jack Whitehall played the outsider.

"I wasn't part of the cool group at school and even now I'm not friends with them. I didn't excel at anything. In fact, I felt humour was the only thing I had going for me."

To get laughs he became Jack the Lad. Bored rigid in class, he'd be disruptive or overly talkative.

Was he ever diagnosed with Attention Deficit Disorder or seen as a problem child?

"Yes," he says grinning. "I was once taken to see an educational psychologist, but she admitted she couldn't make head nor tail of me."

On leaving school, Whitehall trod the route to conventionality by heading off to Manchester to study History of Art. But after stints in revue and comedy clubs, so many offers of comedy work came in, art was soon consigned to history.

He said: "I am ambitious but . . . (he pauses and thinks) I don't think I'm consumed by it all. Although what does consume me are the worries and the insecurities of keeping it all going.

"I never feel I've done enough. I feel consumed with feeling empty."

Jack Whitehall is certainly not Lord Snooty - which is evident when he talks about his friendship with comedian Kevin Bridges - he's stayed with the Scot in Clydebank.

"When I meet Kev, he comes along with some of his mates from school. And I do the same, with blokes I've grown up with. It's not about joining up with famous people you've met in a TV studio."

He adds, grinning: "It may all change. When we're 50 we may find ourselves hanging out with celebrities. But I really hope not."

l Jack Whitehall, The Hydro, March 7.

Arts and Entertainment

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