While early July gave me some great movies to review like "The Old Guard" and "Palm Springs," it seems like the end of the month is a bit drier when it comes to new films. Then again, we are still in a pandemic where time stands still. So really, I should be grateful for any new content, be it a standup comedy special or an entertaining TikTok video from the House of Vibes.
An English comedian by the name of Jack Whitehall has a new Netflix special out called "I'm Only Joking," (there, got the title 100% right that time) so I decided to boot it up, having no experience with this man before. I've not seen his previous specials "Fresh Meat" or "Bad Education."
Though after laughing so hard I had to pause the special until I was done, I might just have to give those a watch, or at the very least try "Jack Whitehall: Travels With My Father."
Whitehall set the tone for this Netflix special very quickly. He was going to have some hilarious stories, but his real hidden talent was sneaking in some dark humor that takes about five seconds to hit. And when it does hit, you laugh and go, "Ohhhhhh!"
And he had this insane ability to sneak the little dark jokes into his material so you never saw them coming. I would just be listening to a bit, he'd seem to finish a line, and then after a window of a second or two, a sentence would be added to complete the dark humor. It was brilliant, really.
Whitehall opens with a story about having a bad performance one night. The twist? This particular evening he'd been hired to perform with Prince Charles in the audience, the front row, actually.
Whitehall noted the front row is supposed to be a free spot for comedians. He said, if the material isn't landing right, he can always ask people in the front row what they do for a living. But he can't ask that of Prince Charles.
He noted Prince Charles' main occupation was sitting around waiting for his parents to die. Which was already harsh but funny. Then he added, "Me too." That set the stage for how his dark humor would slip in unnoticed.
When I initially saw the special listed on Netflix, one of the keywords for "I'm Only Joking" was "dark comedies," and when I saw how energetic and lively Whitehall was, I thought, "There's no way." Then the Prince Charles material hit, and I immediately stood corrected. Or rather ... sat corrected in front of my sofa watching the show.
Flipping back through my notes, I really can't find any of Whitehall's material that failed to land tonight. Every joke was funny, with the exception of a small bit about fad diets I felt was a little dated. Other than that, I almost never stopped laughing at Whitehall's performance.
Every story this guy told, I giggled at. He had this bit about how awful conveyor belt toasters in hotels were, and it took me a little bit of Googling on this one because I'd never seen a conveyor belt toaster before.
I guess I've just not stayed in the right hotels. Though when this covid-19 is over (or if it's ever over), I'm going to ask every hotel I can next time I go on vacation: "Do you have a conveyor belt toaster with your continental breakfast?"
Anyway, Whitehall said conveyor belt toasters in hotels are terrible. Because the first time you put your bread in, it still comes out as bread instead of toast. The second time your bread comes out, it's barely warm. And the third time, it's burnt to a crisp! And God help your soul if you want to put a bagel in that machine.
When Whitehall got to his bit about there being too many kinds of milk in the world (which I would agree with if my wife didn't bounce between oat milk and coconut milk), I was genuinely impressed by just how many kinds of milk he'd memorized for his hypothetical coffee shop to offer. I remember asking myself how long it must have taken him to memorize the 12 different kinds of non-cow milk and if he ever messed it up. I guess it's possible he's screwed up that bit, and that's just not the version they upload to Netflix.
Regardless, his point about having 12 types of milk but no cure for cancer and how cow-based milk drinkers are the smokers of 2020 -- priceless, and strangely relatable. Come to think of it, I believe that would make a pretty good description of Jack Whitehall in general. Priceless, and strangely relatable.
His vegan bit about finally giving in to his annoying friend's demands to buy a reusable straw and then getting one made out of ivory brought the dark humor back again. And again, I guffawed after a two-second delay to process what he'd said.
Perhaps the biggest telltale sign Whitehall had just slipped a piece of dark humor into his standup was his signature grin. He'd finish a bit. There'd be a pause. He'd deliver the dark comedy, and then he'd just smirk while the audience processed what he was saying. I tell you he's a sneaky cheeky devil, this Jack Whitehall.
Perhaps the one thing I agreed with more than anything else in Whitehall's entire special was his truth about vegans. Normal people hate anyone who has the ability to exercise self-control. And it's not just vegans, it's people who bicycle to work, quit drinking, run marathons, etc. You people who do that stuff are living your best life, and in reality, when us normal people tease you, it's because we want you to be on our level. I felt called out there.
Whitehall had some truly amazing burns in his material, stuff that made me want to high-five him through the television screen. He also had a fantastic self burn that caused a giggling fit.
The comedian had just described how his former girlfriend (still sharing a living space with him) passed gas in the kitchen in front of him for the first time in six years. He said she was trying to make herself seem less attractive to him after the breakup. And when the comedian figured he'd better do the same, Whitehall asked her if there was anything he could do to make himself seem less attractive to her. Her response? "I'm pretty much there." Ouch.
And that's what I absolutely adored about Jack Whitehall. He could roast his father, he could burn his vegan friends, and he wasn't afraid to turn the flamethrower on himself. The guy's skin must be thick enough that it could provide adequate siding material for a house. I love a comedian with thick skin.
His airport story had me rolling on the floor laughing, and he finished strong with a tale about his poor father needing to relieve himself while in the radioactive forest outside of Chernobyl. Not really a weak bit in the bunch.
My favorite moment in the entire special was an accident that showed just how human Whitehall is and how fantastically talented the guy is at laughing during his own misery.
The comedian had just done a bit about how he's scared to do one night stands for fear of catching an STD. He said his buddy got the kind you can't get rid of ... children. And while the rest of us were busy laughing, he pointed to a man in the audience and asked him accusingly why he looked at his own daughter during the punchline of that joke.
It turns out, the woman Whitehall thought was that man's daughter ... was actually his wife. And he just looked like he wanted to melt into a puddle on the stage. He was so ashamed, he joked about how he couldn't even address that side of the room anymore. And then the camera caught that husband waving at the comedian, smiling a few seconds later, to remind Whitehall ... he screwed up.
It was the pure human moment that was so perfect and added a layer of unique hilarity to "I'm Only Joking." The moment was modest, refreshing, and really endeared Whitehall to me as a comedian. He's a fantastic jokesmith. And I look forward to his next special.