Edinburgh 2013: Mitch Benn talks stand-up, science fiction snobbery and Doctor Who - Edinburgh - Arts and Entertainment - The Independent

Edinburgh 2013: Mitch Benn talks stand-up, science fiction snobbery and Doctor Who

 

I meet Radio 4 comedian Mitch Benn outside Piccadilly Circus tube station, where he’s slouched against a railing checking his phone. Passers-by ignore him, presumably because, in his own words, he “isn’t on telly properly”.

We slope off to a nearby bar to chat about Edinburgh, the success of his debut novel Terra, and the future of Doctor Who.

Benn, who’s off to the Edinburgh Fringe Festival for a month at seven o’ clock the following morning, asks for a black coffee and waits patiently while I wobble over to the table with our full-to-the-brim drinks.

“The thing that makes Edinburgh unique is there’s no committee,” he says, once we’ve settled down.

“You don’t have to be invited to perform. Basically, if you can get your s*** together to be on, then you’re on.”

This year, 43-year-old Benn is taking his show Mitch Benn is the 37th Beatle to the festival. Growing up in Liverpool, he went to the same school as John Lennon and Paul McCartney and tells me that Ringo Starr used to follow his mum around when they were children.

“By that rational, I’m probably, like, the 29th Beatle,” he chuckles.

Benn’s childhood dream was to become a “proper actor”. He went to university in Edinburgh and became a prominent member of the Edinburgh Theatre Company, spending most of his time in the theatre with only the occasional nod to his academic studies.

“You don’t meet many stand-up comedians who are pursuing their cherished boyhood ambition by being a comedian,” he says.

“Most of us got side-tracked into it while we were trying to do something else.”

Despite this, Benn has gone on to become a regular contributor to BBC Radio 4‘s The Now Show and has released seven studio albums, performing at various music festivals and comedy clubs across the country.

“I suspect there will be humour in everything I do,” he says. “There’s humour in everything I love. Even the stuff which is not ostensibly comedy has got a bit of humour in it, you know?”

While we talk, Benn performs little skits, wise-cracking in his exaggerated Radio 4 voice and waiting for me to laugh politely. At one stage he even starts beat boxing.

As well as comedian, actor, and musician, Benn has recently added author to his curriculum vitae.

His debut science-fiction novel, Terra, was published in July to rave reviews. When I ask how he writes, he replies, “extremely well”. Clearly delighted, he tells me Waterstone’s have already sold out of the book.

“I mean, it could be that they only ordered thirty in the first place,” he grins. “But they want more of them, so that’s good!”

The second book in the trilogy will be out in a year’s time and Benn is currently writing the third and final instalment.

Eyes bright with excitement, the comedian is clearly passionate about his writing. He can barely sit still as he talks about the novel, gesturing enthusiastically as he explains mythologies, spaceships, and alien languages until I- somewhat shamefacedly- admit science fiction “isn’t really my thing”.

“I think there’s a lot of snobbery about science fiction,” he says, looking dismayed and slightly bewildered.

“Following the exploits of made-up characters in a real world setting is somehow OK, but the minute it’s fictitious characters in a fictitious setting it’s, ‘Oh, it’s stupid, it’s for kids.’”

I’m quickly forgiven when I tell him I make an exception for Doctor Who and soon find myself embroiled in a heated debate over who’s in the running to fill Matt Smith’s bow tie. Interestingly enough, Benn tells me Peter Capaldi would be a fine choice.

As our interview comes to an end, Benn visibly relaxes, dropping his comedic persona almost as soon as my pen is put away. 

Shoulders slightly slumped, he leans forward in his chair and we gossip about Doctor Who for another ten minutes. Off duty he’s still funny but his booming voice and theatrical pauses have been replaced by informal chit-chat.

I wonder whether, in an age where comedians are rarely off our screens, where we follow them on Twitter, eager to read their 140 character witticisms, Benn feels under pressure to be funny all the time. 

“There are some guys who only crack jokes,” he agrees.  “But I like to give little bit of myself. Twitter’s a blank slate. It's just a conversation. And I like conversations.”

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Some might argue that a fleeting moment in the actor’s scintillating, silver-tongued company is worth every penny.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Colin Firth stars as master magician Stanley Crawford in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

film
Arts and Entertainment
U2 have released Songs of Innocence in partnership with Apple

musicBand have offered new record for free on iTunes
Arts and Entertainment
Brad Pitt stars in David Ayer's World War II drama Fury

film
Arts and Entertainment
Top hat: Pharrell Williams

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jonah Hill and Channing Tatum star as undercover cops in 22 Jump Street

film
Arts and Entertainment
David Bowie is back with fresh music after last year's hit album The Next Day

music
Arts and Entertainment
Keith Richards is publishing 'Gus and Me: The Story of My Granddad and My First Guitar', a children's book about his introduction to music

music
Arts and Entertainment
Calvin Harris has generated £4m in royalties from the music platform

music
Arts and Entertainment
Jenna Coleman stars as the Time Lord's companion Clara in Doctor Who

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Time and time again: the popular daytime quiz has been a fixture on Channel 4 since 1982

TV
Arts and Entertainment

To mark Tolstoy's 186th birthday

books
Arts and Entertainment
Rachel McAdams is reportedly competing with Mad Men's Elisabeth Moss for a major role in True Detective

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sam Smith returned to the top spot with his album 'In The Lonely Hour'

music
Arts and Entertainment
Steve Backshall is set to dance with Ola Jordan on Strictly Come Dancing. 'I have a friend who's a dancer and she said to me 'You want Ola because she's a fantastic dancer and she can make anyone look good' meaning 'even you'!' he said.

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Sting and Paul Simon on stage together at Carnegie Hall in New York

music
Arts and Entertainment
music
Arts and Entertainment
The Strictly Come Dancing 2014 contestants and their professional dance partners open the twelfth run of the celebrity ballroom contest

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Robin teaches Clara to shoot an arrow
doctor who
Arts and Entertainment
Queen Christina left the judges baffled with her audition
X Factor
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week