David Mitchell (actor)

David Mitchell
A man in a red shirt looks at the camera
David Mitchell, 26 January 2009
Born 14 July 1974 (1974-07-14) (age 37)
Salisbury, Wiltshire, England
Residence Kilburn, London, England
Nationality British
Education Modern History
Alma mater Abingdon School
Peterhouse, Cambridge
Occupation Actor, comedian, writer, presenter
Years active 1995–present

David James Stuart Mitchell (born 14 July 1974)[1][2] is a British actor, comedian and writer. He is half of the comedy duo Mitchell and Webb, alongside Robert Webb, whom he met at Cambridge University. There they were both part of the Cambridge Footlights, of which Mitchell became President. Together the duo star in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show in which Mitchell plays Mark Corrigan. The show received a BAFTA and won three British Comedy Awards, while Mitchell won the award for Best Comedy Performance in 2009. The duo have written and starred in several sketch shows including The Mitchell and Webb Situation, That Mitchell and Webb Sound and most recently That Mitchell and Webb Look. Mitchell and Webb also starred in the UK version of Apple's Get a Mac advertisement campaign. Their first film, Magicians, in which Mitchell plays traditional magician Harry, was released on 18 May 2007.

On his own, Mitchell has played Dr James Vine in the BBC1 sitcom Jam & Jerusalem and Tim in the one-off ShakespeaRe-Told adaptation of The Taming of the Shrew. He also is a frequent participant on British panel shows, including QI, Mock the Week and Have I Got News for You, as well as Best of the Worst and Would I Lie to You? on each of which he is a team captain, hosts The Unbelievable Truth and 10 O'Clock Live. Mitchell also writes a column for The Observer.

Contents

Early life

Mitchell's ancestry can in part be traced back to the Highland Clearances.[3] He was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, to Ian Douglas Mitchell and Kathy Grey Mitchell (née Hughes),[1] who were then hotel managers. In 1977, his parents gave up their jobs in order to look after a then two year old Mitchell.[2] He was effectively brought up as an only child until he was seven and a half years old when his parents had another son.[4][5] The family moved to Oxford where Mitchell's parents became lecturers on hotel management at Oxford Brookes University.[2][5]

In a 2006 interview with The Independent, Mitchell stated his childhood dreams:

When I was at school I either wanted to be a comedian-stroke-actor or prime minister. But I didn't admit that to other people, I said I wanted to be a barrister and that made my parents very happy. I didn't admit I wanted to be a comedian until I came to university, met a lot of other people who wanted to be comedians, and realised it was an OK thing to say.[6]

From the age of twelve he was educated at the independent Abingdon School in Oxfordshire. Having always been top of the class at primary school, once he moved to Abingdon he realised that there were plenty of people smarter than he was, and so turned his attention to debating and drama "where [he] had a chance of being the best."[5] There, Mitchell often took part in plays, "largely because you got to play cards backstage."[6] His roles mainly consisted of small minute-long parts, until he won the role of Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh, and this was the first time that he was "consciously aware I was doing a performance" and that that "was better, even, than playing cards."[6] Mitchell had been "obsessed" with comedy writing since his school days, as he "always felt that doing a joke was the cleverest thing", and "would intrinsically prefer a parody of something to the actual thing itself".[7] In 1993 he went to Peterhouse, Cambridge where he studied history.[2] There he began performing with the Cambridge Footlights, of which he became president.[8] He met Robert Webb in his first year at university, at an audition for a student pantomime of Cinderella,[9] with the two men setting up a comedy partnership.[7] These factors had a detrimental effect on his university work, and he just scraped a 2.2 in his final exams.[7] Before his break into comedy Mitchell worked as an usher at the Lyric Hammersmith theatre,[10] and in the cloakroom of TFI Friday among other jobs.[11]

Career

Early work and Peep Show

"We have superficial differences and underlying similarities. We pretty much agree about what we think is funny. But we come across differently. We get on really. And together we're greater than the sum of our parts."
— Mitchell describing his partnership with Webb.[5]

Mitchell's first project with Robert Webb was in January 1995, a show about the First World War[12] entitled Innocent Millions Dead or Dying: A Wry Look at the Post-Apocalyptic Age.[13] Webb later described it as being "fucking terrible".[12] After leaving university he and Webb began performing a number of two-man shows at the Edinburgh Fringe.[7]

From this, the duo were given the chance to write for Alexander Armstrong and Ben Miller and for series two of Big Train.[8] After minor work on The Jack Docherty Show and Comedy Nation,[14] their first break into television acting was in 2000, on the short-lived BBC sketch show Bruiser, which they primarily wrote, and starred in. The show also featured Olivia Colman, who would become a regular cast member of Mitchell and Webb projects, and Martin Freeman, later of The Office fame. Other cast members included Matthew Holness and Charlotte Hudson. Additional material for the show was provided by various people, including Ricky Gervais and James Bachman.[15]

In 2001 the two men were commissioned for a sketch show of their own, entitled The Mitchell and Webb Situation, which ran for six episodes on the now defunct channel Play UK.[8] Despite the show running for a mere series, it was reasonably well-received. Wessex Scene's Darren Richman said "what the series lacked in budget, it made up for in magnificent material" and went on to call it "far superior to the vastly overrated Little Britain" and "perhaps the greatest forgotten sketch show of modern times."[7] Eureka! TV said that the show "gushes forth an hilarious stream of surreal and quirkily inventive sketches", as well as calling it a "cult success". Eureka! TV released The Mitchell and Webb Situation on DVD in 2005.[16] In the interview with Wessex Scene, Mitchell stated that he was "more proud of the way it turned out than annoyed that it was only aired on a small channel."[7]

A man in a suit which some computers and shelves behind him
Mitchell as Mark Corrigan in Peep Show.

Mitchell and Webb's next project came in 2003, with starring roles in the Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show, as flatmates Mark Corrigan and Jeremy Usbourne respectively.[17] The show originated from writers Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain's failed attempt to complete a team-written sitcom for the BBC, they had an old script that they wanted to revive and Mitchell and Webb helped out, with it eventually evolving into Peep Show.[6] Despite low viewing figures (which almost got the show cancelled after series three)[18] the show was received to wide critical acclaim.[14] The British Sitcom Guide called it "without a doubt one of the best sitcoms of the decade."[17] Ricky Gervais has been cited as saying "the last thing I got genuinely excited about on British TV was Peep Show, which I thought was the best sitcom since Father Ted".[19] The BBC hailed Mitchell's performance in the series, citing that "As Mark Corrigan, David reached out to all those middle-aged men in a twentysomething's body, who believe drugs are boring and systems are necessary if society is to function at all."[8] Mitchell has stated that he empathises with Mark and enjoys playing him and that he "agrees with many of [Mark's] opinions."[7] Peep Show has aired seven series, making it the longest-running sitcom in Channel 4 history.[20]

In 2009, Mitchell won the British Academy Television Award for Best Comedy Performance for his work on Peep Show, after having lost in the same category the year before.[21][22] He was nominated again in 2010.[23] He won the award "Best Television Comedy Actor" at the 2007 British Comedy Awards,[24] and the pair shared the 2007 Royal Television Society Award for "Comedy Performance".[25] They were also jointly nominated for "Best Television Comedy Actor" at the 2006 British Comedy Awards.[26] Peep Show itself has also won the BAFTA for "Best situation comedy" in 2008,[27] and the British Comedy Award for "Best TV comedy" in 2006,[28] and retained it the following year.[24] It also won "Best TV Comedy" at the South Bank Show Awards,[19] and claimed a Golden Rose in 2004.[29]

Other Mitchell and Webb projects

Two men in torn clothes stand on a stage: the man on the left is wearing a long coat and has a hat on, the man on the right wears a chequered hat, a string vest, jacket and orange trousers
Mitchell (right) as "Ginger" on stage with Robert Webb during a performance of their The Two Faces of Mitchell and Webb stage tour.

After the success of Peep Show Mitchell and Webb returned to sketch comedy with their BBC Radio 4 sketch show That Mitchell and Webb Sound, which has run for four series. The show was adapted for television and became That Mitchell and Webb Look, producer Gareth Edwards described it as "the shortest pitch [he had] ever written".[12] The British Sitcom Guide named That Mitchell and Webb Look the "Best Sketch Show of 2006", as well as saying that it was the best thing that David Mitchell did in all of 2006.[30] The show has run for four series.[31] Towards the end of 2006 the pair made their first tour, with a show called The Two Faces of Mitchell and Webb.[32] The tour was criticised as just "a succession of largely unrelated scenes" by The Guardian's Brian Logan, who gave it a rating of two stars.[33]

That Mitchell and Webb Look won them the BAFTA for "Best Comedy Programme or Series" at the 2007 awards,[34] and they earned a further nomination for it in 2009.[35] It was nominated for two British Comedy awards in 2006: "Britain's Best New TV Comedy" and the "Highland Spring People's Choice".[26] Their stage tour The Two Faces of Mitchell and Webb was nominated for the British Comedy Award for "Best Stage Comedy",[26] and That Mitchell and Webb Sound won a Sony Silver Award.[36]

Their first film, Magicians was released on 18 May 2007. It was directed by Andrew O'Connor and written by Jesse Armstrong and Sam Bain.[37] Webb played the role of modern magician Karl.[29] Later in 2007, the pair recorded a pilot BBC Radio 2 sitcom entitled Daydream Believers, in which Mitchell played Ray, a science-fiction writer.[38] The show was previously a one off television pilot from Channel 4's Comedy Lab, and also starred Mitchell and Webb.[39]

Mitchell and Webb's first comedy book This Mitchell and Webb Book was published in 2009,[40] and a second book is in the works.[41] They also wrote and filmed Playing Shop, a comedy television pilot for BBC Two about two men who operate a business out of their shed.[42] Although the BBC commissioners were happy with it, Mitchell and Webb scrapped it themselves, as they felt it was too similar to Peep Show. A new pilot had been commissioned,[43] but the plan was later shelved.[44]

The duo also fronted the campaign of the UK version of Apple Inc.'s Get a Mac adverts, with Mitchell playing PC.[45] The adverts have received much criticism. Writing in The Guardian, Charlie Brooker claimed that the use of Mitchell and Webb in the adverts was a curious choice. He compared the characters of PC and Mac in the adverts to those of Mark and Jeremy in Peep Show, stating that "when you see the ads, you think, 'PCs are a bit rubbish yet ultimately lovable, whereas Macs are just smug, preening tossers.'"[46] The British Sitcom Guide also criticised the pair for "selling their souls".[30] One journalist called the adverts "worse than not funny", and accused Mitchell and Webb of "an act of grave betrayal" for taking corporate work.[47] In an interview with The Telegraph, Robert Webb responded to the duo's critics, stating that "when someone asks, 'Do you want to do some funny ads for not many days in the year and be paid more than you would be for an entire series of Peep Show?' the answer, obviously, is, 'Yeah, that's fine'".[47] In the same interview, Mitchell also said "I don't see what is morally inconsistent with a comedian doing an advert. It's all right to sell computers, isn't it? Unless you think that capitalism is evil – which I don't. It's not like we're helping to flog a baby-killing machine".[47]

In 2005, the duo were placed ninth on a list of the United Kingdom's best television talent,[48] and were named twelfth in a Radio Times list of the most powerful people in television comedy.[49]

Solo work

As well as his work alongside Webb, Mitchell has appeared on his own in several shows. He played technical expert Owen in the Radio 4 sitcom Think the Unthinkable in 2001.[8] He played the surgeon Dr Toby Stephens in the BBC2 sitcom Doctors and Nurses.[8] In 2005 he played Kate's hapless secretary Tim in the BBC's updating of The Taming of The Shrew in its ShakespeaRe-Told series.[50] Mitchell appeared as various roles on the Channel 4 sketch programme Blunder. The show was not well received, with the British Sitcom Guide naming it as the worst thing that Mitchell did in all of 2006 in their "British Sitcom Awards" of that year.[30] He portrayed the recurring character of Dr. James Vine in the BBC sitcom Jam and Jerusalem.[51] Mitchell had a small part in the film I Could Never Be Your Woman, playing an English writer, also named David.[19] Whilst in Los Angeles to record the part he decided that he did not like the area much, and preferred filming in Britain.[5] He has also written for series five of the BBC2 impressionist sketch show Dead Ringers,[52] and voiced Mitch in the Disney animated series Phineas and Ferb.[53] He also narrated the reality show Beauty and the Geek.[8] Following the success of Channel 4's Alternative Election Night in 2010, which Mitchell hosted with Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne, the four presented 10 O'Clock Live, a series of live shows looking at the week's affairs.[54]

Mitchell has become a regular participant on many panel shows, leading The Independent's James Rampton to christen him "if not king, then certainly prince regent of the panel games."[19] He has appeared on QI, Have I Got News for You, Mock the Week, Just a Minute, Armando Iannucci's Charm Offensive and 8 Out of 10 Cats,[8] as well as appearing on The Big Fat Quiz of the Year in 2005, 2007 and 2009.[55] He was a team captain on the Channel 4 comedy quiz show Best of the Worst, opposite Johnny Vaughan.[56] The British Sitcom Guide named Best of the Worst the "Worst Comedy Quiz Show of 2006".[30] On 19 October 2006, he hosted the pilot edition of The Unbelievable Truth, a panel game on BBC Radio 4, in which the panellists are encouraged to lie; the show became a full series in April 2007.[57] He is also a team captain on the panel show Would I Lie To You?,[58] and has hosted three episodes of Have I Got News For You.[59] Mitchell hosted the panel show The Bubble.[60][61] He hosted the second week of Channel 4's FAQ U, and appeared as himself in an episode of Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive, a panel show parody.[8] He also appeared as one of the participants on the Channel 4 show TV Heaven, Telly Hell,[62] and has appeared on several episodes of Question Time.[63] In a 2007 interview with Digital Spy, Mitchell stated that he enjoyed panel shows, as they are "a game worth playing."[2] The Radio Times named him "The Best Comedy Panel Show Guest" in the world, stating that "he's incredibly, disgustingly witty" and "even starting to make Paul Merton look slow on the uptake".[64]

Mitchell has presented three series of the online video show David Mitchell's Soapbox, a series of short monologues co-written with John Finnemore for ChannelFlip. In these monologues Mitchell has criticised a variety of subjects, including the popular BBC show Doctor Who[2] and 3D television.[65] Matt Warman of the Daily Telegraph suggested that the series could be a sign that new comedy will increasingly become available online, rather than on television.[66] He provided the voiceover for a £1 million government advert for FRANK, warning of the dangers of cocaine, as "Pablo the Drug Mule Dog";[67] and also for the Driving Standards Agency's "The Highway Code".[68] He writes columns for The Observer and The Guardian.[69] He also took part in Channel 4's Comedy Gala, a benefit show held in aid of Great Ormond Street Children's Hospital at the O2 Arena.[70] In October 2009, Mitchell signed a deal with HarperCollins and its imprint Fourth Estate to write a volume of memoirs and a novel. The memoirs are scheduled for publication in 2012 and the novel in 2013.[71]

Following his BAFTA win, Mitchell was ranked at #53 in the 2009 MediaGuardian 100, an annual ranking of media people in The Guardian. In reference to his ubiquitous presence in broadcast and print media, The Guardian's writer called him "the go-to funnyman of the moment".[14] In their entry for Peep Show on their list of "The top 50 TV shows of the Noughties", The Times labelled Mitchell "a national institution".[72]

Personal life

As of 2011, Mitchell was living in a small flat in Kilburn;[6][73] he does not drive.[74][75] In a 2005 interview, Mitchell admitted that he had "been in so many situations when I've just said nothing to someone I've fancied,"[7] and he had not dated anyone "for six or seven years", though was occasionally propositioned by fans.[5] Mitchell noted that "I'm sort of all right on my own. I don't want it to be forever, but the fundamental thing is I'm all right alone."[5] In December 2010 he stated that he had started dating someone;[76] according to The Daily Telegraph he is dating Victoria Coren.[77] In 2007, he was best man at Robert Webb's wedding to Abigail Burdess.[10] He remains interested in history and said in an interview with The Observer that "I can see myself in a few years' time joining the National Trust and going round the odd castle. I think I might find that restful as the anger of middle age sets in." In his interview on Parkinson he stated that if he could go back in time to do one thing, it would be to go to the building of Stonehenge, to ask them "why they were bothering".[78] He also plays the occasional game of squash and tennis, and enjoys watching snooker.[12] Mitchell has expressed an interest in writing a novel but admitted that he currently has no ideas.[7] He is a user of Twitter.[79] Mitchell voted for the Liberal Democrats in the 2010 election.[80]

Mitchell is constantly "checking and re-checking things",[74] such as whether the door is locked or whether he's left the gas on and describes himself as a worrier.[81] He once stated that he had diagnosed himself with obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD),[5] but later noted that that was "overstating it a bit",[81] and he does not actually have OCD.[82]

His favourite television programme is The Simpsons, which he called the "best programme ever".[83] He claims that watching new comedy is "very stressful", and cites I'm Alan Partridge, The Office and Monty Python as being among his favourite television programmes.[7] He also likes Extras, 30 Rock, CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, Bleak House, Tinker, Tailor, Soldier, Spy,[83] Terry and June and the television programmes of Adam Hart-Davis.[84] His favourite actor is Sir Alec Guinness,[83] and he lists Spike Milligan, Peter Sellers and Peter Cook as being his comedy idols.[7] Mitchell has stated that Morecambe and Wise, Monty Python and The Two Ronnies have been a big influence on his career.[12] He once claimed he is "not remotely interested in music,"[74] but appeared on Desert Island Discs,[85] and owns two CDs, Phil Collins' ...But Seriously and Susan Boyle's debut, though has expressed a dislike for both.[86]

Filmography

Film

Year Title Role Notes
2007 Magicians Harry First starring role
I Could Never Be Your Woman David

Television

Year Title Role Notes
1997 The Jack Docherty Show Various characters Also writer
1998 Comedy Nation Various characters
2000 Bruiser Various characters Also writer; appeared in all six episodes
2001 Fun at the Funeral Parlour Strachan Episode 1.4: "The Mountains of Doom"
The Mitchell and Webb Situation Various characters Also writer; appeared in all six episodes
Comedy Lab Ray Daydream Believers: "Brand New Beamer"; later adapted into a radio one-off
2003 The Strategic Humor Initiative Various characters
2003– Peep Show Mark Corrigan Longest running role;
Won – British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy Actor in 2007
Nominated – BAFTA for Best Comedy Performance in 2008
Won – BAFTA for Best Comedy Performance in 2009
Nominated - BAFTA for Male Performance in a Comedy Role in 2010, 2011
2004 Doctors and Nurses Dr Toby Stephens Pilot: "Hip Hop"
2005 Twisted Tales Ray Episode 1.9: "Nothing to Fear"; also writer
All About George Jed Episode 1.3
Dirty Tricks Penguin Episode 1.5
Look Around You Pat Taylor Episode 2.6: "Live Final"
ShakespeaRe-Told Tim Agnew Episode 1.3: The Taming of the Shrew
2006 Rob Brydon's Annually Retentive 'Himself' Episode 1.1
2006–2009 Jam & Jerusalem Dr James Vine Appeared in 12 episodes
2006– That Mitchell and Webb Look Various characters Also writer;
Won – BAFTA for Best Comedy Programme or Series in 2007; nominated 2009
Two British Comedy Award nominations
2006 Blunder Various characters Also writer
2009 Phineas and Ferb Mitch Episode 2.11: "The Chronicles of Meap Part I & II"
2010 Playing Shop Also writer, unaired pilot.
2011 How TV Ruined Your Life 'Himself' Episode 1.6
2011 The Bleak Old Shop Of Stuff TBA

Other appearances

As narrator
  • Beauty and the Geek (2006)
  • Sci-Fi Saved My Life (2007)
  • TV Is Dead? (2007)
  • Wonderland – The Secret Life of Norman Wisdom Aged 92¾ (2008)
  • Blackadder Exclusive: The Whole Rotten Saga (2008)
  • Blackadder's Most Cunning Moments (2008)
  • The Real Swiss Family Robinson (2009)
  • The Million Pound Bike Ride: A Sport Relief Special (2010)
  • Around the World in 90 Minutes (2010)
Panel games
Other programmes
  • The 100 Greatest Cartoons (2005)
  • Britain's 50 Greatest Comedy Sketches (2005)
  • Imagine – 1 appearance (2006)
  • TV Heaven, Telly Hell – 1 appearance (2006)
  • The Law Of The Playground – 7 appearances (2006)
  • Friday Night with Jonathan Ross – 2 appearances (2007, 2009)
  • The World's Greatest Comedy Characters (2007)
  • Parkinson – 1 appearance (2007)
  • Time Shift – 1 appearance (2007)
  • Lily Allen and Friends – 1 appearance (2008)
  • The Graham Norton Show – 3 appearances (2008, 2009, 2011)
  • Question Time – 3 appearances (2008, 2009, 2011)
  • Who Do You Think You Are? – 1 appearance (2009)
  • This Morning – 1 appearance (2009)
  • The One Show – 2 appearances (2009, 2011)
  • Alan Carr: Chatty Man – 1 appearance (2009)
  • Channel 4's Comedy Gala (2010)
  • Channel 4's Alternative Election Night – host (2010)
  • BBC Breakfast – 4 appearances (2010, 2011)
  • 10 O'Clock Live – Co-host (2011)
  • Mark Lawson Talks to... - 1 appearance (2011)
  • Ronnie Corbett's Comedy Britain - 1 appearance (2011)
  • The Making of QI (2011)

Radio

Year Title Role Notes
2001 Until Morning BBC Radio 4 Afternoon Play
2001–2005 Think the Unthinkable Owen 4 series
2003–2009 That Mitchell and Webb Sound Various 4 series; also writer
2006 Vent John Dee
2007 Daydream Believers Ray BBC Radio 2 pilot
2008 Bleak Expectations Reverend Fecund BBC Radio 4, 3 appearances
2009 The Death of Grass Narrator BBC Radio 4 serial
Non-fictional appearances

References

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  79. ^ "David Mitchell's Twitter Stream". Twitter.com. https://twitter.com/RealDMitchell. Retrieved 2009-07-19. 
  80. ^ "Episode 15". 10 O'Clock Live. 2011-04-28. No. 15, season 1.
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  86. ^ Mitchell, David (2009-12-06). "Boyle's in the Bag, now time for Marmite". The Guardian (London). http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2009/dec/06/album-buying-tribal-choice. Retrieved 2009-12-06. 

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Succeeded by
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