David Mitchell: 'I wanted to be a wizard. Then I wanted to be prime minister'

I'm not a natural risk-taker

And neither is Mark [Mitchell's character in Channel 4's Peep Show]. But I'm shy about revealing which other elements from his character are actually mine, as he's such a terrible, selfish loser. I console myself with the thought that at least I've always known what I wanted to do – Mark has no such clarity.

I don't want stuff

I'm not the sort of person who gets excited about getting, say, an iPad, or even a new house. I would rather have the time it takes to buy it all. But I do feel left out when friends start conversations about gadgets.

The Pythons, 'Blackadder' and Peter Cook got me into comedy

There was less of Cook on TV, but that was part of his cachet for me. There was something about the insolent slowness of his delivery that made you want to laugh, and he had this appealing mixture of establishmentarian and revolutionary.

I'm rather smug about the status of my smoking

For the best part of 20 years I've limited myself to the odd cigarette at parties, never more. It's just an occasional social thing for me.

I've had health kicks, but they don't last

I used to play badminton at school, and recently some friends started playing regularly as part of their health routine. I joined them once and I thought, "This is great, I'll do this twice a week for ever and be a fit man." Didn't happen.

If I was running a TV channel

I would see it as my job to routinely axe shows that nobody wants to make. There are loads out there. Take [David] Dickinson's Real Deal on ITV. First there was Bargain Hunt; it wasn't going to change the world, but it was a reasonable idea. Real Deal is a massive fudge; there was no need for it, but it was made as there's a system out there generating it.

The ambitions of kids need to be taken with a pinch of salt

I didn't stop wanting to be a wizard until I was 12, then at 15 I wanted to be prime minister; most kids at that age have a kind of monomaniacal ambition, I think.

Comedy is most powerful when it's about serious things

With my latest project, [the political satire show] 10 O'Clock Live , I'll be interviewing a politician each week and chairing a live panel discussion, which I hope gets to the root of what is annoying or threatening about the news during quite a difficult period. The great thing is that whenever politics takes a step in a worrying direction, it'll be good for the show.

Telling people what they want to hear is neither an effective nor a brave approach to life

When people pitch ideas to me, I say a sort of guarded yes, just to get the conversation to stop. Then I ring my agent to say, "Get me out of this." There was one show that I agreed to do and it left me thinking, "How the hell [did I end up doing this]?". Maybe mentioning it now is a subliminal way of getting off the hook.

I'm very fond of Cambridge

I had a great time there [while at university], particularly with [comedy group] the Footlights, and I visit every so often. But the day I wake up and think, "I need to go there for inspiration, or to remind me of my youth" is the day I won't go: those are the words of either a maniac or a horrendous pseud.

My rule for writing is never to sit down without knowing what i'm going to write

When I'm working with Robert [Webb], many of our ideas emerge from evenings in the pub, then we jot them down the next day at mine – in the afternoon, though, because of the pub the night before. We waste hours watching daytime TV, though the nearer the deadline gets, the less we watch, so there is a natural discipline somewhere. adam jacques

David Mitchell, 36, is a comedian and actor. His latest project is '10 O'Clock Live' which starts at 10pm on Thursday

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs People

Recruitment Genius: Office Manager

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: Have you been doing a brilliant job in an admi...

Surrey County Council: Senior Project Officer (Fixed Term to Feb 2019)

£26,498 - £31,556: Surrey County Council: We are looking for an outgoing, conf...

Recruitment Genius: Interim Head of HR

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you an innovative, senior H...

Recruitment Genius: Human Resources and Payroll Administrator

£20000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Our client, a very well respect...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot