Stephen K Amos once joked that he would only ever get a TV series at the BBC when Lenny Henry died, because commissioning editors worked on a 'one out, one in' basis where black comics were concerned. This is a joke, of course. But the BBC does seem to pluck comedians in a very organised and politically paranoid fashion. The corporation seems to have, at any given time, a careful selection of backgrounds on stage: we have Mr Middle-class (Michael McIntyre); Mr Working-class (John Bishop); Mr Wales (Rhod Gilbert); Mr Scotland (Kevin Bridges); Mr Ireland (Patrick Kielty). Jack Whitehall, then, must have seemed like a blessing. 'Here, finally, we have a properly posh comedian we can put on stage without offending anyone!'
And what better place for Whitehall than Public? The venue is more comfortable hosting London's most expensively dressed beaus, who dance to cheesy music, drink champagne for no discernible reason and use the word 'literally' at every given opportunity. The idea of comedy is something new here. Is letting your hair down and laughing really conducive in this sort of carefully made up environment?
Lloyd Griffiths acted as MC for the evening, using his rotund and jovial persona to fill in between acts. Griffiths slotted in well and duly launched into some standard comedy banter with the incredibly well-dressed audience. One table of Sloanes, complete with the obligatory champagne, floppy hair and Barbour jackets, was singled out by Griffith.
What followed defies the normal comedy routine. Rather than shrinking away - as any mortal does when their night is interrupted by a spotlight - the table leapt theatrically into the gaping hole in Griffith's act. The Alpha female of the group was Jodie Kidd's niece; the man on her right bred horses for a living. These are the sort of people who thrive on attention. Ye mortals who have not entered the gates of Public in west London - the stereotypes are all true.
Jack Whitehall, of course, went down a treat. His mum (who was sitting in the corner) seemed to enjoy her son's scripted sequences and flailing around on stage immensely. Whitehall is a fantastically energetic comedian, able to use every ounce of energy in his spindly figure to squeeze laughs from the audience.
Carl Donnelly, who I've reviewed before here and enjoy immensely, was instantly aware of the silliness of the venue he'd entered in a way most seemed oblivious to. Are comedy clubs not supposed to be cramped dusty basements full of (impoverished) students and thespians? And should comedy gigs have, er, 'intervals' and canapes? Is it not a bit weird when (after a lighting failure) the audience erupt into Blake's 'Jerusalem' led by Griffith (also a professional Opera singer?) Usually 'yes' to all of the above. But Public, led by Whitehall and others (Miles Jupp, surely), may have begun to buck the trend.
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