Jack Whitehall on Clifford The Big Red Dog and doing stand-up in front of John Cleese

Virgin Radio

9 Dec 2021, 13:07

Credit: Getty

Credit: Getty

Actor, comedian, presenter and writer Jack Whitehall joined the Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky to talk about starring in Clifford The Big Red Dog, his American accent, performing stand-up in front of his comedy hero, and how he's about to come right back down to earth.

Based on the Scholastic book series by Norman Bridwell, the film sees middle-schooler Emily Elizabeth gifted a little red puppy, who then grows to be a 10-foot hound! Jack stars as Emily’s fun but impulsive Uncle Casey. He told Chris: “It sort of feels like a Paddington. It’s got that warm, fuzzy feeling when you’re leaving the cinema. It’s funny, it’s got a lot of heart. It’s a really sweet kids’ film.”

The 33-year-old added: “I went to see it with loads of friends and family and their kids and their kids. An hour-and-a-half's peace and quiet! These kids were totally captivated by this big red dog. So I think that is probably a bit of a gift during this holiday season.”

Jack performs with an American accent in the movie. He joked: “I thought I’d just go for general American, you know? A lot of actors like to commit to just one part of America, and I thought it would be better to show off that I can do all the accents! So, we sort of go on a journey around all 50 states, sometimes in the same scene! I’ll start in New York. I’ll throw in a little bit of California, and will end in the Deep South, and I think that’s the best way to put yourself in the window for American parts!”

When discussing the colour of the CGI dog, which Chris thinks is “a bit more pink than red”, the comedian joked: “I said, ‘I want Don’t Forget Your Toothbrush-era Chris Evans, that should be the hue of the dog’, and I sent them loads of images of you, and that was what we were aiming for, and they failed, because if you think that it’s not red enough, then they’ve done you a disservice, and they’ve done me a disservice!”

He continued: “The most peculiar issue that someone has taken with Clifford The Big Red Dog is a grown adult that sent me a screenshot of Clifford that he’d taken in the cinema, with Clifford from behind with his tail up, and he asked me why Clifford hadn’t been given an anus, and was very upset that the dog hadn't been rendered anatomically correct!”

The movie also stars Darby Camp as Emily Elizabeth, Sienna Guillory as Emily’s mum, and one of Jack’s heroes, John Cleese, as an animal rescuer. Jack told Chris how, one evening while they were making the film, John Cleese came to watch him perform stand-up. “I went to do a new material night, and I made the fatal mistake of telling him that I was going to go and try some new material at a club, and he was like, ‘I’ll come with you.’ And I was like, ‘Oh god.’” Jack explained.

“So I went off to this tiny room. There was, like, 30 people in the crowd and John Clease, my comedy hero, was sat there at the back of the room watching me. I was like, ‘I cannot die in front of my comedy hero. I’m not doing any new material!’ I basically did the last five minutes of the last three Netflix specials that I’ve done! I was fighting for my life to get that crowd to laugh!”

He added: “He liked it! I threw in a couple of Fawlty Towers references… it was a very special moment having him come and watch me doing stand-up in a dank, dark comedy club in Manhattan.”

Jack has nine upcoming How To Survive Christmas live shows, alongside his parents. He told Chris: “I always manage to find a way to bring myself back down to earth. So, for example, for the next week, I’m going on tour with my mum and dad, to do a book tour about a book we wrote in the summer about family holidays. And it will feel very much like I’ve been brought right back down to earth. 

“I felt like I’d possibly arrived this summer when I was in Hollywood on a red carpet with Dwayne Johson and Emily Blunt, and within three months, I will be at the Peterborough Theatre on stage interviewing my mother about what items she likes to pack in her beach bag when she goes on holiday!”

Clifford The Big Red Dog is in cinemas tomorrow (10th December). For tickets to Jack’s stand-up show, How To Survive Christmas, visit jackwhitehall.com.

For more great interviews listen to The Chris Evans Breakfast Show with Sky, weekdays from 6:30am on Virgin Radio, or catch up on-demand here.