Stuck In A Lift

Jack Whitehall wanted to be a Thunderbird

Dream jobs, famous people peeing, and Alan Rickman hair: all the important questions with the blockbuster comedian ahead of his return to stand-up

Timing is everything for comedians. Which is probably why Jack Whitehall is fitting the biggest stand-up tour of his career in just before he becomes a dad for the first time. “The way I pitched it to my girlfriend is that it could be worse…” laughs Whitehall, looking mildly guilty and extremely giddy the day after breaking the news via Instagram. “I’m getting lots of fatherhood advice all of a sudden. Everyone seems to be an expert. I think I’m just of the opinion that, like, once it happens, I’ll suddenly step up to the plate. But right now I still haven’t fully engaged with it. I’m just scrambling around trying to write some material about it now…” 

Taking a break from stand-up to crack Hollywood, Whitehall starred in Disney’s Jungle Cruise alongside Dwayne Johnson and Emily Blunt, and then in Clifford The Big Red Dog alongside Clifford The Big Red Dog – finding far too much of his time spent sat around on film sets with nothing to do. “It’s a very slow and arduous process making films and TV,” he admits. “It can be quite frustrating. And I really missed the immediacy of stand-up. I’d done two family movies that were enjoyable experiences, but I was a little bit constrained. So it’s nice to have the shackles off and be back up on stage, saying whatever I want.”

Now launching his new stand-up tour, Settle Down, Whitehall’s tackling the big worries of pre-middle-age angst, playing three months of arena dates around the UK before finishing in London’s O2. “I can’t wait to be back in July,” he says, remembering the last time he was there, hosting the BRIT awards in 2021. “The audience will probably be just as drunk, but maybe they’ll be paying a little bit more attention to what I’m saying this time! And then, a few days later… I’ll have a baby.”

The King of Comedy | Jack Whitehall

Before all that, we got stuck in a lift with Whitehall to ask all the important questions.

Who would you most like to be stuck in a lift with? 

I mean, I really like The Rest Is Politics, so if I couldn’t have access to my phone maybe Alastair Campbell and Rory Stewart, just so I could sort of listen to them. But then I also love The Rest Is History. So that’s Tom Holland and Dominic Sandbrook. Maybe all four, all chattering about politics and history. And when I get bored of one lot I’ll ask them to be quiet and the others can start up. I’m just describing a podcast really. 

Who would you least like to be stuck in a lift with?

I think at the moment, just given the fact that Arsenal’s capitulation season has been a little bit raw… I’d find Gary Neville quite irritating to be in a lift with at the moment. I feel like he would he would really trigger me right now.

What’s the weirdest interaction you’ve ever had with a famous person? 

I remember once having a pee at a urinal next to George Alagiah and being really starstruck. I also asked Frank Skinner to sign my cricket bat when I was a kid. 

Did you say anything to George when you were stood next to him? 

No. Thankfully, I’d already broken the seal when he arrived, so I was fine. Had I been joining him at the urinal, and then clocked that it was this famous newsreader, I may have had some issues. Also, I just realised that putting those two stories so close together – which I’ve never done before – “asking Frank Skinner to sign my cricket bat” does sound quite euphemistic. It was a genuine cricket bat at a celebrity cricket match. I didn’t meet him in the urinal as well. 

What was the last gig you went to? 

I went to Coachella. Does that count? I got dragged to Bad Bunny and BLACKPINK. I honestly hadn’t heard of any of these people and felt about 100 years old. But it was supposed to be quid pro quo: if I went to see my girlfriend’s favourite acts, then I could take her to see some of the people that I liked. But she only lasted about 10 minutes of The Chemical Brothers… 


What’s on your rider? 

My rider hadn’t changed for years. It used to be a bag of Haribo and six Diet Cokes. I never got around to changing it. And then someone asked me if I wanted to update it, so I just told my tour manager to get me some healthy snacks. But I think his interpretation of healthy snacks is quite different to mine. I was expecting some fresh crudités, maybe some of those little shaves of seaweed… and he brought me a bag of Nobby’s Nuts and some pork scratchings. 

What work of yours didn’t get the audience it deserved? 

The one thing that I wish more people had seen was Decline And Fall, which is this drama I did for the BBC. I felt really proud of it, and I think it got a good audience, but I guess a limited series can only do so well. But also, weirdly, I feel like I wish Fresh Meat had been around when it could have been sold to Netflix. I feel like it would have done a lot better had it had that opportunity, to find an audience outside of the UK. 

There’s still a chance now though isn’t there? 

Yeah, to be fair, it’s on Netflix now. And I do get quite a lot of Americans come up to me and know me from Fresh Meat, which is always quite heartening. I loved making that show. Especially with Jesse Armstrong’s career trajectory now, maybe Succession will float some people towards Fresh Meat too!  

What did 12-year-old you imagine you’d be doing now?  

I wanted to be in The Thunderbirds. I was obsessed. I genuinely remember being more devastated to learn that the Thunderbirds was a fictional organisation than I was to learn about the Tooth Fairy or Father Christmas. That was the moment when I realised that my childhood was over. It was a genuinely crushing moment. I just wanted to help people, but I also wanted to fly a spaceship.


Did you imagine yourself as a puppet?

Oh I 100% wanted to be a puppet. I wanted my hair like Scott Tracy’s. I used to cry if my mum couldn’t get my hair to look like Scott Tracy’s before I went to school. I remember she lost it once, like, “It’s a f*cking puppet Jack! I can’t make your hair look like that!” And I was like, “well maybe we need to bring someone in who can. Your friend Tracy’s a hairdresser isn’t she? Maybe she could do something?”

What’s the worst advice you’ve ever been given? 

It’s being recommended all those apps and rings and bracelets that monitor your sleep. I just don’t want to know about any of that. I don’t want to know whether I had a good night’s sleep or a bad night’s sleep or how many hours I was down for. I just don’t want to think about it. Because the minute I do, I obsess over it. And I don’t think that’s healthy. 

Who do you often get told you look like? 

I’ve had a lot since I’ve grown out my hair. Someone said that I look like Alan Rickman as the Sheriff of Nottingham in Robin Hood Prince Of Thieves, which is spot-on and exactly what I was going for. But then I’ve also had some less flattering ones. Someone on Twitter called me a Tesco Value Richard Hammond. Another person said “why has Jack Whitehall turned up to The One Show looking like Barry Gibb?”. And then the other one… that’s been a recurring one, and not just because of the long hair… is The Yorkshire Ripper. That’s not a great one is it? It’s a bit of a Hobson’s Choice but I think I’d probably rather have Richard Hammond. 

Alan Rickman

What’s the skill no one else knows you’re great at? 

I’m quite good at art. I did a lot of art at school, and I’m quite good at paintings and caricatures and things like that. I haven’t done it for ages but I’d definitely like to get back into it. I could see myself later on down the line having a sort of Vic Reeves/Jim Carrey kind of pivot into a painting career. I’m looking forward to it, but I want to make The Mask first… 

Which film have you rewatched the most times?    

The Princess Bride. Withnail And I. Maybe Die Hard. Die Hard a lot actually. 

That’s Rickman again. 

Yeah and that’s one part I want, more than anything else, to just play a sort of Rickman-esque villain. I’d love to get typecast as an utter scumbag in a Hollywood blockbuster. 

Do you have any superstitions?

Not really. Someone asked me the other day if I did anything weird before going on stage, and the only thing I’ll do is have a Nando’s, always lemon and herb, and then remember to take two Imodium at just the right time so I don’t sh*t myself on stage. That’s probably not the most glamorous answer, but it’s genuinely my pre-show ritual.

Have you got a question for our next guest? 

What’s the worst gig they’ve ever played? 

What’s yours?

Probably when I did King Charles’ Christmas party and died on my arse. And then I got NFI’d to the coronation. 

Jack starts his UK tour on May 23, running until July 16. Find Jack Whitehall tickets here.