Interview extra

David Mitchell, 10 O'Clock Live January 6, 2011

David Mitchell joins forces with Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne for a new live weekly topical comedy show. David tells TV Choice more…

What’s your role in 10 O’Clock Live?
My main thing is a roundtable discussion/debate and an interview with a politician. It’s different from anything I’ve done before, because you can’t write jokes for it. Although, obviously I will have thought about what I feel is annoying or amusing about a subject in advance. But it’s about being fresh and thinking on your feet.

With so much tumult, now seems quite a historic time in current affairs.
It does. It’s true people tend to be self-important about the era in which they’re living, but I genuinely think politics feels more important now than it did five years ago. Plus there’s the ongoing global financial crisis. That’s all a bit apocalyptic.

The show has its roots in last year’s Alternative Election Night on C4, which first brought the four of you together. Was there a sense then it was a pilot for a series?
No, it was very much sold to me as a one-off, and that was, frankly, one of the reasons I agreed to it, on the basis that if it was a disaster, I’d never have to do it again. I sort of thought I’d kick myself if I turned down the opportunity to do a show live during an important general election, and that would annoy me in hindsight a lot more than if I did one and made a bit of a fool of myself.

10 O’Clock Live will be on air for 15 weeks — that’s a long run.
For a show like this it’s important it becomes a fixture in the schedule for a decent chunk of time. We need a chance to bed in. It wouldn’t have been a proper commitment to a weekly live show if it had just been six weeks. It would be over before anyone had noticed it was happening.

Last year you hosted another topical comedy show, BBC2’s The Bubble. Will that be returning?
Unfortunately, I basically did this series instead, much as I really enjoyed doing The Bubble — and I did want to do it again. But the BBC wanted it at the same time as this, so I was faced with a straight choice. I thought 10 O’Clock Live seemed higher risk, but also with higher potential excitement… if it works.

Are you going to have to be obsessive about following the news?
A bit. I’ve been writing a topical column [for The Observer] for a long time, so I’m used to getting the papers every day and keeping vaguely abreast of things. So, you know, I don’t think there’s going to be a big difference from that.

Do you ever get fed-up of being pigeon-holed as a kind of nerdy know-it-all on the panel game show Would I Lie To You?
Well, of course, it’s sometimes irritating, but the nature of a show like that is kind of polarizing, really. Those sorts of programmes need big, easy to grab hold of characters. So I play along when it suits me, and when it doesn’t I moan about the fact I’m being sort of steamrollered into a personality I don’t actually have. So, yes, I’m fine with it, really. The only thing that worries me is when people start calling me posh. I worry that really posh people will think I think I’m as posh as them. There are many degrees of posh and what I am is middle class.

Upper-middle or middle-middle?
I think I’m middle-middle. I flattered myself as upper-middle for many years, and then I read a book called Watching The English in which it became clear I was middle-middle. One of the key attributes which showed that was I thought I was upper-middle. All the middle-middles think that. And the upper-middles think they might be upper class, with a following wind.

By Graham Kibble-White

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