The problem is too serious to be brushed under the rug, and everyone has to collectively acknowledge that Netflix is facing a severe comedy drought. Great conversationalists do not always make for good stand-up sets, and Jack Whitehall is no exception. The comedian has that golden retriever energy to him, one that makes you want him as your neighbor or a frequent dinner guest. The man doesn’t lack energy or effort, but in Jack Whitehall: Settle Down, he just couldn’t make people laugh. There is no doubt that his set had some good moments, and whether funny or not, the writing of the one hour was seamless, and if this set had just been a few years behind, it would have been original as well. Sadly, Jack Whitehall’s stubborn pursuit of superficiality cost the audience an hour of wondering when the good part would start.
Jack Whitehall starts Settle Down with a joke as old as time about successfully staying away from people who advise him to stay away from alcohol. He then goes on to list out the benefits of different types of alcohol as proof of just how committed he is to drinking. Then, he moves on to how his past pettiness has come back to haunt him. His school was in the news because of a teacher who had turned out to be a predator, and the media referred to the school using Jack Whitehall’s name. Jack Whitehall faced the flip side of validation, which is the burden of carrying the mistakes of the people he sought approval from, and this makes for an interesting bit, though it still doesn’t make anyone laugh out loud. On that note, we had to look up ‘sambuca’, and it still did not make the joke interesting.
Within a group of friends, old or outdated jokes can still get a laugh because there is affection along with the element of timing. If Jack Whitehall had delivered these very jokes when with friends, people may have raised their eyebrows at the lack of originality, but the excuse that he is not working but hanging out with friends would have been valid enough to justify it. However, when one has paid good money to hear someone talk and traveled a few hours as well for that purpose, then there is no excuse for being bad at your job. It was embarrassing that Jack Whitehall included the human-robot joke in the set, something that has been doing the rounds on social media for a few years now. That ‘Flo App’ joke was a tiny moment but not significant enough to hold momentum. It was one of those moments where male comedians desperately try to declare their political allegiance, and it just lays the groundwork for what Jack Whitehall had to say about Floridians later on in the show. The fatphobia is very cleverly sandwiched between his declarations of their wrong political affiliations. Only close friends (probably) would not judge you for this type of humor, which is why it should have been kept off the stage.
However, Jack Whitehall’s set was not a complete bust. Admittedly, the jokes around his child’s due date were the best of the lot. Meghan Markle’s story has also become an enduring pop culture moment of laughter, and it was genius to compare her to the new The Little Mermaid played by Halle Bailey. Jack Whitehall also makes some heartfelt observations (worded differently) about the 30s being the new 20s and there being a greater need to openly talk about abortion. This part wasn’t a performance and was one of the few reasons we warmed up to Jack Whitehall despite not liking the majority of his jokes.
Jack Whitehall is about to be a father. He says that he is scared of the impending maturity that he must adopt in his life for his new role. He also hates therapy, which is why he bought a dog with his girlfriend as a substitute. Perhaps if he had opted for therapy instead, his jokes may not have been so derivative and frivolous but more original, the kind that come from a place of confidence and courage.
What Jack Whitehall lacks in fun, he makes up for with performance. His energy is neither too mellow nor too animated. It is just perfect—the kind that Goldilocks would choose. But for someone who hates Floridians for being right-wing, Jack Whitehall doesn’t strike as being very progressive either, if you know how to pick up the signs. Other than his fatphobia, the way he seems to think that being gay is funny indicates that his homophobia is just better masked than the Floridians he hated on the safari. Those jokes may also be coming from a place of wanting to be childish, which is Jack Whitehall’s brand of comedy, but perhaps it is time to retire from that, among other things.
Jack Whitehall just becomes one of those comedians you like as a person but wouldn’t pay to watch. However, if he had company on stage, that would be a different consideration. There is no doubt in our minds that he would make for an excellent guest on a podcast or a talk show or be one of the better writers on any sitcom. But a sole stand-up comedy stage is not for him.
Jack Whitehall: Settle Down uses the obligatory laugh track that has become a trademark of Netflix specials and which sitcoms would be embarrassed of. It’s really time to make that track illegal. The editor makes sure to show the packed hall from time to time, but he cannot hide that not many people are laughing. The few who do are captured on camera, and it is only during the rare moments of the show that the comedian actually came through with his jokes. But it remains that the editor did a better job than Jack Whitehall. On a different note, if Jack Whitehall was serious about this being his last rendezvous with frivolity, then we have hope of liking him more in the future. Otherwise, he just becomes one of those skippable acts.