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.”

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne as transgender artist Lili Elbe in The Danish Girl

First look at Oscar winner as transgender artistfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Season three of 'House of Cards' will be returning later this month

TV reviewHouse of Cards returns to Netflix
Arts and Entertainment
Harrison Ford will play Rick Deckard once again for the Blade Runner sequel

film review
Arts and Entertainment
The modern Thunderbirds: L-R, Scott, Virgil, Alan, Gordon and John in front of their home, the exotic Tracy Island

Arts and Entertainment
Natural beauty: Aidan Turner stars in the new series of Poldark
Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Arts and Entertainment
A life-size sculpture by Nick Reynolds depicting singer Pete Doherty on a crucifix hangs in St Marylebone church
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Escalating tension: Tang Wei and Chris Hemsworth in ‘Blackhat’
filmReview: Chris Hemsworth stars as a convicted hacker in Blackhat
Arts and Entertainment

Oscar voter speaks out

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars race for Best Picture will be the battle between Boyhood and Birdman

Arts and Entertainment
Anne Boleyn (Claire Foy), Thomas Cromwell (Mark Rylance)
tvReview: Wolf Hall
Arts and Entertainment
Tom Meighan of Kasabian collects the Best Album Award
Arts and Entertainment
Best supporting stylist: the late L’Wren Scott dressed Nicole Kidman in 1997
Arts and Entertainment
Dakota Johnson and Jamie Dornan as Anastasia Steele and Christian Grey in Fifty Shades of Grey


Arts and Entertainment
Mick Carter (Danny Dyer) and Peggy Mitchell (Barbara Windsor)
tv occurred in the crucial final scene
Arts and Entertainment
Glasgow wanted to demolish its Red Road flats last year
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

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

    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
    How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

    Time to play God

    Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
    MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

    MacGyver returns, but with a difference

    Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
    Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

    Tunnel renaissance

    Why cities are hiding roads underground
    'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

    Boys to men

    The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
    Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

    Crufts 2015

    Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
    10 best projectors

    How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

    Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
    Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

    Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

    Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
    Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

    Monaco: the making of Wenger

    Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
    Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

    Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

    Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

    In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

    This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
    'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

    Homage or plagiarism?

    'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
    Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

    Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

    A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower