Saturday 1 October 2016

Comedian Jack Whitehall says mooning Chris De Burgh launched his comedy career

Stephen Milton

Published 20/08/2015 | 10:22

'King of comedy' Jack Whitehall. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire
'King of comedy' Jack Whitehall. Photo: Ian West/PA Wire

Earning some €1.5million last year thanks to a string of sell-out stand-up tours, hosting duties on Sky’s sports panel series, A League of Their Own and a starring role in Channel 4’s campus comedy Fresh Meat, Jack Whitehall is in a rather fortuitous situation at only 27 year-old.

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And oddly, he credits Chris De Burgh with his success. 

Jack Whitehall plays a teacher in Bad Education
Jack Whitehall plays a teacher in Bad Education

“Maybe not so much my big break, but yeah, Chris De Burgh was essential in the self-realisation that going too far actually pays off.

“I’d always been the class clown but I went one step further when rather randomly, Chris, who went to my school, came back to film an episode of Songs of Praise.

“So while he was singing or talking to the camera,” Whitehall explains, “I pulled down my pants and mooned right behind him. 

“That got great laughs, caused lots of disruption. Don’t think he knew what was going on but I was thrown out of my classroom, landed myself in hot water for that one. And it was very worth it. 

Jack Whitehall and the cast for the Bad Education Movie, which has begun filming in Cornwall (Tiger Aspect Productions/PA)
Jack Whitehall and the cast for the Bad Education Movie, which has begun filming in Cornwall (Tiger Aspect Productions/PA)

“I learned from then on that having extremely low levels of self-respect is good for comedy and you have to able to humiliate yourself. That has been my key to success. All thanks to Chris De Burgh.”

Fans of the plum-toned funnyman will be able to catch his big screen debut in this weekend’s new release, The Bad Education Movie.

A spin-off from the successful BBC series, Whitehall returns as hapless teacher Alfie Vickers, whose ineptitude in the classroom is only matched by his dim-witted, delinquent students.

And for the chaotic 90 minute outing, Vickers takes his young scholars on a field trip to Cornwall where they experience naked zip-lining, helicopter chases and an unfortunate sexual encounter with a swan. Which required two sets of prosthetic testicles.

“I’m basically tea-bagging the swan,” Jack chuckles, chatting to Independent.ie, “and we filmed it all with two sets of prosthetic testicles made up for me and I have no one else to blame but myself because I wrote the script. 

“We had an animatronic swan, a puppet swan head and a real swan and filming with a real swan was quite terrifying because everyone tells you it can break a child’s arm.

Jack Whitehall meeting The Duchess of Cambridge at the end of the Royal Variety Performance
Jack Whitehall meeting The Duchess of Cambridge at the end of the Royal Variety Performance

“And I’m not saying it’s as big as a child’s arm but….”

Whitehall did admit however that the movie was inspired by the success of The Inbetweeners’ films at the box office, both raking in a combined €135million worldwide. 

“Without The Inbetweeners, we wouldn’t have dreamed of doing something like this. 

“And we had to write something that was cinematic and worth the price of admission and if anything, was probably a little too ambitious at first. I ended up putting together a blockbuster action adventure which would have required £40million budget. But somehow, we managed to do on a very small percentage of that.”

While scrimping back on the budget, Whitehall claimed the premise of a calamitous school trip will have universal appeal. Even if it brings back traumatic memories for the comedian.

“It’s something we all relate to. We’ve all had terrible ones.

“I once went to Hampton Court as a child and was made dress up as Anne Boleyn in a corset. It was awful. 

Jack Whitehall presents the award for Best Comedy Panel Show during the 2013 National Television Awards at the O2 Arena, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 23, 2013. See PA story SHOWBIZ Television. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire
Jack Whitehall presents the award for Best Comedy Panel Show during the 2013 National Television Awards at the O2 Arena, London. PRESS ASSOCIATION Photo. Picture date: Wednesday January 23, 2013. See PA story SHOWBIZ Television. Photo credit should read: Yui Mok/PA Wire

“Although being forced to cross dress in front of your class, I think it formed me as a person. Which I don’t know what says about me?”

Jack is currently dating actress Gemma Chan, who recently hit the big time as a synth, a robot with profound artificial intelligence in Channel 4 hit series, Humans. 

And though a huge fan of the show, he won’t be angling for a guest spot in the forthcoming second series. “So glad they got the second season, even from just being a fan of the show, I’m so happy. Not just for Gemma. Although that’s my main priority obviously. 

“But it’s the kind of show I would have watched if she wasn’t in it.

“However, me playing a synth is just going to be a big old disaster. I’m really only comfortable playing characters like myself. That’s my entire range as an actor.”

For those unaware, Whitehall’s did somehow manage to stretch his abilities when Disney offered a role in billion dollar blockbuster Frozen – but unfortunately, his role as a troll was cut from the final movie. 

“I was quite gutted by that,” he says, “I mean first they ask me to play a troll, and not a princess. And then I get the axe. Although I think I’m on the DVD.  

“But I do adore Disney. I am fully available for Frozen 2. So hopefully someone will call me. Hopefully. Soon.”

**The Bad Education Movie is in cinemas Friday August 21

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