Whitehall farce funnier than the show in question

Why should the comic be criticised for making good on his privileged upbringing?

Share
Related Topics

I received an unprecedented response to my last column, about the furore over Channel 4's Big Fat Quiz of the Year.

As comedy is largely a matter of taste, it inspires many opinions, but the overwhelming sense I got from my respondents was that the affronted reaction to some off-colour jokes on a TV show broadcast after the watershed was disproportionate. The synopsis is this: Jack Whitehall and James Corden made some crude and, to my mind, unfunny, gags about such figures as The Queen, Usain Bolt and Susan Boyle, and the battalions of Middle England, aka the Daily Mail, went into apoplexia, demanding reparations and sanctions. It was a meteorite of a story that kept us amused while there was little else in the news. But an interesting side of modern Britain also revealed itself in the midst of the posturing and the confected outrage. It was reported that, not only was Jack Whitehall, inset, a young lout with no manners, but that he also came from a "privileged" background. He is the son of a well-connected theatre agent and a former actress who appeared in a number of television dramas. Young Master Whitehall's godfather is Nigel Havers. It's not exactly an impediment to a career in showbusiness, but neither is it like being born a Redgrave.

He was also educated privately and went to Marlborough College, whose most recent alumni include the Duchess of Cambridge. All this, we are led to believe, should make us hate him even more. Talented, good-looking, wealthy, popular – and the beneficiary of a bucket-full of demographic advantages. But how can we, in a country governed by an Etonian elite and where the highest levels of business and politics are rife with cronyism and quasi-Masonic back-scratching, take against a young man who has exploited his good luck in being dealt a winning hand?

Since when did a relatively privileged upbringing render talent less valid? And, in any case, many of our most venerable, best-loved comedic figures – John Cleese, Mel Smith, Jennifer Saunders for example (public school educated all) – have enjoyed similar environmental advantages to Whitehall. I can't remember their careers being blighted by public disapproval of their background. At every turn these days, we are encouraged to feel resentful and angry: about bankers, or MPs, or journalists, or the police, or indeed anyone in public life. Sometimes with very good cause. But we need to exercise a little discrimination.

There is no reason to begrudge Jack Whitehall his success because of his arguably gilded opportunity. He is very much the product of an age when everyone tries to be young, feel young or act young. As a result, young people have more power, more freedom and are less inhibited by a respect for tradition.

His comedy – and that of his peers – betrays this, and more. And that's why some people feel threatened by it.

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistant - Accounts Payable - St. Albans

£26000 - £28000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: Senior Accounts Assistan...

Ashdown Group: Treasury Assistant - Accounts Assistant - London, Old Street

£24000 - £26000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Recruitment Genius: Installation and Service / Security Engineer

£22000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is part of a Group...

Recruitment Genius: Service Charge Accounts Assistant

£16000 - £18000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

Errors & Omissions: Outgunned by a lack of military knowledge

Guy Keleny
Ukip leader Nigel Farage in Tiny Tim’s tea shop while canvassing in Rochester this week  

General Election 2015: What on earth happened to Ukip?

Matthew Norman
General Election 2015: Chuka Umunna on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband

Chuka Umunna: A virus of racism runs through Ukip

The shadow business secretary on the benefits of immigration, humility – and his leader Ed Miliband
Yemen crisis: This exotic war will soon become Europe's problem

Yemen's exotic war will soon affect Europe

Terrorism and boatloads of desperate migrants will be the outcome of the Saudi air campaign, says Patrick Cockburn
Marginal Streets project aims to document voters in the run-up to the General Election

Marginal Streets project documents voters

Independent photographers Joseph Fox and Orlando Gili are uploading two portraits of constituents to their website for each day of the campaign
Game of Thrones: Visit the real-life kingdom of Westeros to see where violent history ends and telly tourism begins

The real-life kingdom of Westeros

Is there something a little uncomfortable about Game of Thrones shooting in Northern Ireland?
How to survive a social-media mauling, by the tough women of Twitter

How to survive a Twitter mauling

Mary Beard, Caroline Criado-Perez, Louise Mensch, Bunny La Roche and Courtney Barrasford reveal how to trounce the trolls
Gallipoli centenary: At dawn, the young remember the young who perished in one of the First World War's bloodiest battles

At dawn, the young remember the young

A century ago, soldiers of the Empire – many no more than boys – spilt on to Gallipoli’s beaches. On this 100th Anzac Day, there are personal, poetic tributes to their sacrifice
Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves

Follow the money as never before

Dissent is slowly building against the billions spent on presidential campaigns – even among politicians themselves, reports Rupert Cornwell
Samuel West interview: The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents

Samuel West interview

The actor and director on austerity, unionisation, and not mentioning his famous parents
General Election 2015: Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Imagine if the leading political parties were fashion labels

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, on what the leaders' appearances tell us about them
Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

Phumzile Mlambo-Ngcuka: Home can be the unsafest place for women

The architect of the HeForShe movement and head of UN Women on the world's failure to combat domestic violence
Public relations as 'art'? Surely not

Confessions of a former PR man

The 'art' of public relations is being celebrated by the V&A museum, triggering some happy memories for DJ Taylor
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef succumbs to his sugar cravings with super-luxurious sweet treats

Bill Granger's luxurious sweet treats

Our chef loves to stop for 30 minutes to catch up on the day's gossip, while nibbling on something sweet
London Marathon 2015: Paula Radcliffe and the mother of all goodbyes

The mother of all goodbyes

Paula Radcliffe's farewell to the London Marathon will be a family affair
Everton vs Manchester United: Steven Naismith demands 'better' if Toffees are to upset the odds against United

Steven Naismith: 'We know we must do better'

The Everton forward explains the reasons behind club's decline this season
Arsenal vs Chelsea: Praise to Arsene Wenger for having the courage of his convictions

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Praise to Wenger for having the courage of his convictions