David James Stuart Mitchell (born 14 July 1974) is a British actor, comedian, and writer (though not the same as the novelist of the same name) best known for his work with long-time comedy partner Robert Webb on the "Mitchell and Webb" sketch shows, most notably That Mitchell and Webb Situation, That Mitchell and Webb Sound, and That Mitchell and Webb Look. (He and Webb were the also the dominant writers in short-lived sketch show Bruiser). The pair also star in a Black Comedy / Cringe Comedy Brit Com, Peep Show, with Mitchell playing Mark, an uptight, socially-repressed sad sack, to Webb's Jeremy, an aspiring musician with delusions of adequacy. The two also appeared in the feature film Magicians, written by the same writers as Peep Show and casting the pair as a magician double-act bearing similarities to their characters in the show.
In his own projects Mitchell is the king of the Panel Show, with numerous appearances on QI, Have I Got News for You, Mock the Week and Would I Lie to You?, on which he is a team captain; he also turns up on The News Quiz and I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue now and again. He is host of the radio show The Unbelievable Truth, which requires panelists to discern true facts from false; he was also host of The Bubble, a televised panel game, during its single-series run. In 2013 he began hosting a new quotation-based panel show called Was It Something I Said? on Channel 4. He has been featured in an episode of Who Do You Think You Are?. He was also one of the hosts of the news/comedy show 10 O'Clock Live.
Mitchell's comedic style is characterized by witty, intelligent barbed commentary on the illogic of the world, which almost inevitably erupts in a ranting monologue which has the audience (and often the target) in stitches. He is the most likely spiritual successor to Stephen Fry, though he would be the first to deny it. Mitchell often seems self-conscious about his own success, presenting an occasionally shy face to the world at odds with his rapid-fire delivery when frustrated or annoyed, as when he claimed he would have liked to succeed David Tennant as the Doctor on Doctor Who but doubted he would be attractive enoughnote .
He also maintains a series of soapbox rants on Youtube, a column in The Observer and has written an autobiography "Back Story". His current venture for the BBC is the sitcom Upstart Crow, part of their 'Shakespeare 400' season, in which he plays William Shakespeare trying to break into theatrical writing but who is woefully unappreciated by the prosaic Brummie-accented people he grew up with, who cannot understand his vision and think he's got too many big ideas in his head.
He is married to presenter Victoria Coren and they have a child together.
Tropes associated with Mitchell or his characters:
- The Ace: David has appeared 11 times on the Big Fat Quiz of the Year shows, and has won 7, giving him more victories than anyone in the series aside from Jonathan Ross (who has 8 wins out of 16 appearances). The closest person to usurping the two of them is Noel Fielding (with 4 wins out of 10 showings).
- Artifact Title: His "Soapbox" was originally a pun on the fact that it was sponsored by a brand of cosmetics - since the third series, it's been sponsored by Dell, and much less prominently, but the title remains.
- Beard of Sorrow: Judging from his public appearances at least, he appears to be something of a real-life inversion. His public persona, as seen on shows such as Would I Lie to You?, was notably spiky and prone to aggressive rants when he was clean-shaven, but after he decided to grow a beard he became notably more relaxed about things (if still prone to comedically exasperated monologues). If his autobiography is to be believed, this may coincide with the periods before his relationship and marriage with Victoria Coren, in which he admits to being lonely, insecure, dissatisfied and heartbroken, and after, which cheered him up considerably.
- Berserk Button: Gosh, so many things. Sausage rolls, bread and milk somehow being poisonous, Russians, being forced to dance, Americanized note spelling, tea that's too hot, The British Cheese Board, the list goes on... His YouTube channel is basically a long list of his many Berserk Buttons.
- Biting-the-Hand Humor: On top of the frequent jokes about The BBC, one of his YouTube "Soapbox" monologues is on the subject of male grooming, including specific references to the series' sponsor "Bulldog"note . After he mocked them again in another Soapbox, Bulldog got its own back by calling him "Donny Michaels" in The Tag.
- Comedic Sociopathy[on The Bubble, asking panelists to guess whether a headline actually appeared in the previous week]
David: "Comedian David Mitchell has announced he is to split from his long-term comedy partner Robert Webb [Webb starts furiously pounding his buzzer] in order to concentrate on a solo career."
Robert Webb: [visibly upset] Fake!
David: It is fake. [beat] Hell of a way to break it...
- The Comically Serious: Some of his characters, and to an extent the man himself.[going on a rant about William and Kate doing "the Wave" at Wimbledon] Before everyone screams for me to get over myself, let me say that it's no use, I never will.
- Deadpan Snarker: When he's not ranting.
- Don't You Dare Pity Me!: While he frequently makes jokes about his (apparent) loneliness, he doesn't appreciate the audience going "aww". Or cheering too much. What would be the appropriate reaction remains a mystery.[Hosting Have I Got News for You: The Missing Words headline is "(Lack of item price) surprises many customers about bar codes"]
David: [reading autocue] To be honest, it doesn't bother me that prices aren't included in bar codes, because, over the years, I've come to know the prices of every single Ready Meal for One.
Audience: Awww. [David looks mortified]
Paul Merton: Shall we start a collection?
Andy Hamilton: Yeah!
David: [waving his hands] The pity's worse!
- Fat and Skinny: The "chubby" one, at least compared to Webb. He was quite noticeably chubby when he first came to public prominence, but lost weight owing to increased walking he started doing to help ease a back condition.
- I Love the Dead: Discussed in one of his Soapbox videos, where he opines that it's pretty much a victimless crime, as the "victim" isn't exactly in a position to take offense, and finishes by suggesting a novel concept.So all it would take is an extra box to tick on the Organ Donor card. "Once we've taken out your kidneys, liver, and lungs, and stuffed the resulting space with sawdust, do you or do you not have any objections to a couple of perverts having a go on you while you're fresh?"
- Limited Wardrobe: Not in his regular television appearances, but in his weekly webcast David Mitchell's Soap Box he wears the same red shirt and black slacks every week. In September 2010 he appeared in a blue shirt in answer to viewer comments. He claimed the red shirt was simply for convenience but that being able to operate on a real Limited Wardrobe policy would be fine by him, since it would free him from having to decide what to wear every day.
- Neat Freak: He is, in his own words, a little bit OCD (though he is at pains to point out that he's never been diagnosed with anything and is primarily speaking colloquially to mean "fussy and picky"). Here's an excellent example.
- Not So Above It All: In 2009's Big Fat Quiz of the Year, following a short clip of Lady Gaga's "Poker Face"note , he and his teammate Charlie Brooker were greeted with incredulity by the other teams (particularly Jonathan Ross and Russell Brand) when he said he felt no want or desire to dance to the music. Disbelieving them, the producers started up "Poker Face" again, focused the cameras on David, the audience cheered... and David proceeded to sit completely immobile until the music stopped.David: [to the audience] What the fuck makes you think I was gonna do that? This isn't the fucking Generation Game! Fuck off, I'm hired to sit here and be sarcastic, not dance around like some cunt! [...] The world is full of people trying to make people who don't want to dance, dance, at weddings and things. "Go on, have a dance, you want to, really." No! I really don't want to!
- Odd Couple:
- The general dynamic of the Mitchell and Webb collaborations, including Peep Show. Quite possibly Truth in Television. Ironically, however, behind the scenes it may be inverted to a degree; Webb tends to be cast as the confident, charismatic one while Mitchell is usually the socially awkward dweeb with No Social Skills, but according to Webb himself Mitchell is a lot more confident and natural in social settings whereas he tends to be more reserved.
- Much of the comedy in Would I Lie to You? also stems from his having this dynamic with Lee Mack and, to a lesser extent, with Rob Brydon.
- Orwellian Retcon: The removal of the Bulldog tags from the first two series of Soapbox, despite references to them in the videos themselves, and the parody tags done when he and Webb briefly superseded them to promote their book.
- Rant Comedy: In his "Soapbox" webcast, his column in The Observer, and wherever else he gets the chance.Stephen Fry: I've missed your angry logic, David.
- Rant-Inducing Slight: Any number of things can trigger a burst of, as Stephen Fry put it, his "relentless, urgent, and slightly worried logic."
- Shout-Out: The backdrop to this rant is Reference Overdosed.
- You Need to Get Laid: A frequent joke at his expense, particularly since he was a long-time bachelor.
- From the first episode of the Bubble, when Mitchell went on a tangent about how a cat's head found in somebody's bed would not have been sent by the Cat Mafia, but by the Mafia of a species which considered their cats the equivalent of our horses. After a second of silence, Reginald Hunter said:Reginald D. Hunter: After the show, let's get you a girlfriend.
- Funnily enough Victoria Coren, his future wife, laughed at that put-down and was sitting right next to him.
- From the first episode of the Bubble, when Mitchell went on a tangent about how a cat's head found in somebody's bed would not have been sent by the Cat Mafia, but by the Mafia of a species which considered their cats the equivalent of our horses. After a second of silence, Reginald Hunter said: