David Mitchell: I'd like to be in a play

Comic wants to stretch his acting

David Mitchell says he’d like to star in a stage play – but is nervous about taking the plunge.

Although he stars in Peep Show and has made acting appearances in everything from Jam & Jerusalem to a modernised TV version of The Taming Of The Shrew, he says he does not stretch himself enough as an actor.

The panel show regular said he is often offered roles as an awkward, repressed, posh person, but frequently turns them down.

‘If in doubt, I say no if it’s acting, but yes if it’s a panel show,’ he said. ‘Maybe it should be the other way around.

‘I’d like to do a play - but I’m nervous as to what play.’

Mitchell was talking in conversation with David Baddiel last night at an event to mark the launch of his autobiography Back Story.

He said: ‘For my first book I thought it would be handy to use what’s in my head rather than a) research anything or b) think of anything.’

And he admitted that he had intended the book to prove he was more than the posh stereotype he portrays himself as on TV – and ended up being a lot more honest than he expected,

‘Anyone writing anything autobiographical is either going to want to define themselves or redefine themselves,’ he said, admitting: ‘It takes incredible self-regard to think I have the right to present myself as anything but a cartoon character.

‘I’m defined as the posh, repressed man – my panel show character – and when you’re defined as that you feel you’re more than than. I get all the shit for living in a county house without the pleasure of the actual country house.’

But he added: ‘I am deceitful and repressed, and in my book I told more truths than I expected.’

That includes a sincere section about finding love with Victoria Coren, whom he is marrying later this year, which ends the otherwise lighthearted book.

‘When I started the book I didn’t know how much I was going to write about where I was when I was writing it – from a “happy place” to use a terrible expression,’ he told the London audience at St James Church, Piccadilly. ‘But it felt absurd not to write about that. The story of my life so far has a very happy ending.

‘Had I written this book three or four years ago, it would have just stopped, I would have come to no real conclusion; i had no wisdom to impart; I knew no more than when I was 20 years old.’

The comedians also discussed the relative merits of writing serious books, as Baddiel has done, or out-and-out comedy ones.

Baddiel said, ‘If you want to say something serious, you can say it in the realm of the comic’ – and criticised Woody Allen as being ‘immature’.

He said: ‘Woody Allen was a great, great genius who, in a stupid and immature way, decided you can’t be a great artist if you’re funny. If he was more of an intelligent artist he would know that funny is a great artistic achievement. I think that a joke is the highest artistic achievement.’

The pair were also asked by an audience member which comedians they hated, but Mitchell said: ‘I don’t want to slag off anyone who tries to make people laugh. It’s difficult and should be applauded.’

  • David Mitchell: Back Story is out now, priced £20. Click here to order from Amazon for £10.

Published: 25 Oct 2012

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