I’m watching you
You may know David Mitchell for his inappropriate anger on TV panel shows like ‘Mock the Week’; his look of permanent discomfort on Channel 4 comedy ‘Peep Show’, or just for wearing a stick-on moustache in ‘That Mitchell and Webb Look’. Now he has written ‘Back Story’, a “disgusting” book about his life, and joins us to pull it apart. Unfortunately, I couldn’t actually get a ticket, but used my powerful influences as a Bookseller to sneak in. Unfortunately, I missed the first fifteen minutes but there’s what I did catch.
I came in at a rather random moment as David Mitchell spoke about seducing girls by quoting an entire episode of ‘Blackadder’. The audience were then treated to David reading out an extract of his book. I have recently finished the book, and it is impossible to read it in any voice other than David’s, actually hearing him read it was a delight. Fans of his panel shows, soap-box YouTube channel and ‘10 o’clock Live’ will understand what I mean by his voice. It is truly unique.
The interviewer, whose name I missed, questions him on his writing technique because the book reads as one conscious thought as David takes us on one of his many walks around London. He notes it was a mix of passages that were heavily edited and long stretches of writing that go off into impossible tangents which, as a reader, you were happy to join in on.
You can’t think of Mitchell without thinking of the Webb. Being so influenced by Monty Python, he imagined being part of a troupe of comedians, but quite by accident, he and Webb started one of the biggest duos seen in modern comedy. A moment of ill acting props as Rabbit from ‘Winnie the Pooh’ lead to the basis of Mitchell and Webb early comedy style which was about embracing mistakes and letting the audience laugh at you as well as with you. David has also established himself as an individual, the favourite opinionated panel guest.
The interviewer asked David for his views on today’s comedians and the state of British Comedy. “Well, I’ve got a job now, so I’m in the helicopter pulling up the ladder. Those new comedians have no respect.” After the titters of laughter passed, he talks about his fluid reaction to new comedy, part of him doesn’t want to watch it in case it’s bad but part of him doesn’t want to watch it in case it’s good, really good. He’s not as aware of new comedy as he should be but he trusts in the British way and institutes to keep producing good stuff.
So what advice would you give to any up and coming comedians? “Don’t try to write for a market.” Write what you think is funny and hope that someone else agrees, and that’s all you can do. Trying to find an audience will be exhausting. “When you make a joke, treasure it, it could be your last.” The Edinburgh Fringe is a fantastic opportunity to experiment with material and get it seen. There are always TV and Radio people floating about those sorts of events.
There is enormous amount of love in this book, name checking people that deserve recognition and thanking those that deserve credit. This is especially true towards his parents who were incredibly supportive. This book is an eye opener; the personality seen on the small screen is a self-caricature, a go-to comedy persona. The David on the page is not as ‘fucked up’ as the David on the screen, he is normal, shock horror.