Last night, I got intimate with Jamie Laing.
It was a raw, naked encounter and he didn’t disappoint – I thoroughly enjoyed every second of it.
But we weren’t alone…
His mate, Francis Boulle, was there too.
An auditorium full of them.
If you’re imagining some illicit sex party, you’re close – I was, of course, in the audience at the Private Parts show, currently on tour throughout the UK.
Private Parts is a stage show, inspired by the podcast of the same name. The (excellent) podcast is co-hosted by Jamie Laing and Francis Boulle, and features a variety of guests.
Jamie’s nudity may have been confined to the stage (damnit!) but the cheeky pair certainly bared all last night…
But we’re getting ahead of ourselves – let me do the introductions…
We first clapped eyes on Jamie and Francis in Made in Chelsea, the ongoing soapy “structured reality” series – their launchpad into our world.
The fact that Made in Chelsea – a show that celebrates the lives of posh, wealthy young people – was created at all, was a provocation in itself.
I watched the first episode and disliked every cast member immediately and unreservedly.
Of course, I tuned in for the next episode as, like so many people, I am fond of being disgusted.
And then they got me.
I was hooked.
Made in Chelsea is comedy gold in the transparency of its set up, with characters “bumping into each other” all over West London, with implausible regularity.
But one thing that did seem authentic was the #awkwardness of many of the encounters.
The glamour of the show may draw us in, but it is the uncomfortable silences and the relationship dramas that keep us there.
Watching the terribly stiff and proper Francis, and the unstoppable force of nature that is Jamie Laing (hurled into the show, without any warning to viewers, in Series 2) had many of us hooked.
And laugh if you will, but their Private Parts show and podcast provides us with a much-needed dose of…honesty and reality.
Hear me out…
For the past couple of years, we have watched politicians fudge, hedge and stammer when asked simple questions about the biggest political decision of our time: Brexit.
Some journalists have even let them.
We are part of a “Brexit means Brexit” that no one can even begin to describe, without being contradicted by the person standing next to them.
In fact, the next time I can’t explain what something is, I shall use that very line:
“Quantum Physics means Quantum Physics” I will say – and I shall not be questioned if there is any fairness in the world.
We have also witnessed the Leader of the Free World lie about…
(Complete the above sentence as you see fit.)
Finally, we live in an unreality where A Listers’ social media accounts are handled by PR people and we have absolutely no idea how much of their carefully crafted personas is real.
So what makes Private Parts any different?
Well, the show may be light-hearted in tone, but it holds the kernel of truth as to why the Bafta winning Made in Chelsea has been so successful.
They show us their cracks (no pun intended…) – they show us those little chinks in a person’s armour.
That moment when Jamie goes a little too far, and Francis starts looking even more uncomfortable than usual and puts on his especially stern voice.
Or when Francis prods Jamie about yet another transgression, and Jamie starts talking more quickly and nervously.
The stories are from real life and Francis and Jamie are great frenemies on and off the stage.
Much of it seems to be the unfiltered truth.
And we’re in on the jokes – we feel part of it.
You don’t get that from most public figures…
So, when Jamie and Francis gamely make politically incorrect jokes, rib each other, whether on podcast or live on stage, it feels gutsy – and liberating.
Usually, famous folk will deny all their sins, if they even answer the question, but these two seem to revel in their imperfections.
In terms of the format, the pair have gone with that tried and true ‘odd couple’ double-act.
Jamie needs no introduction – but he’ll probably want one, given he’s such a bratty, vain and egocentric chap.
(I jest – he’s brilliant – sharp as a bag of knives, funnier than faeces and still the reigning monarch of Made in Chelsea. Or The Arch Puppeteer, as I prefer to call him. And did you see that body?)
Francis is the stern, moderating influence. Or the “father figure” as he refers to himself in the stage show.
(He is in the middle of making a prank call to the Loughborough Echo when he says this, which does somewhat undermine any claims to maturity.)
Loughborough is their first performance and it does feel very fresh.
In fact, such is the impromptu nature of the show that Francis comes up with a new joke in the interval, slots it into his diary reading, gets his laugh, and leaves Jamie lamenting at the smugness he’ll now have to endure.
I have been trying to figure out, ever since Made in Chelsea began, if Francis is incredibly dry and witty – or an entirely humourless chap who happens to have, by some happy accident, a voice that makes everything sound terribly ironic.
Either way, it works.
Essentially, it is a show of revelations. And there is no area of life they shrink from. No topic is too embarrassing.
They even go to gory lengths to show us what a fresh hair transplant looks like.
(Yup. Jamie’s had one… )
I had my hand over my face during that segment of the show so I can’t tell you much. You’ll have to find out for yourself.
Speaking to the pair after their performance, I point out that it all seems very spontaneous, to which Jamie admits by way of an explanation: “Well, tonight it kind of was!”
Yet, that’s exactly as it should be.
The show is a rough diamond, not a polished one. And it needs to remain that way to work.
The more real it seems – the more they appear to catch each other off guard – the better it will be.
We haven’t come to the show for jazz hands and grease paint – we’re here for the camaraderie.
At one point, Francis makes a quip and (a probably delighted) Jamie points out: “That joke didn’t land well!”
But that kind of spur of the moment reaction is what fans have come for.
Some quibbles remain…
The stage show doesn’t have the depth or the insights of the podcast; it is pure entertainment. And you do wonder what a guest would have added to the mix.
I am also bitterly disappointed to discover that Francis was once “detained” by the police – yet we are not told what for…
A mystery I hope future shows will solve for us.
But given that few things in life are greater than their podcast, we’ll let these quibbles slide.
The show certainly delivers on the entertainment front – I laughed so hard I even winded myself a little.
(It was actually quite painful and I am only writing this article after having first submitted my no win / no fee claim against the pair.)
Made in Chelsea introduced us to an impossibly glamorous world that we could only peer at through a glass window.
Private Parts means that we can finally join the party.
Update: The Private Parts tour may be over now but check out the Private Parts podcast on Youtube.