David Mitchell on 10 O’Clock Live, cardigan comedies and falling in love with Sherlock

"I was initially annoyed that Sherlock was set in the modern day, so I tuned in with my arms folded. But it’s so stylish, fast-moving and brilliantly acted"

Childhood favourite?

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Monkey. It was a Japanese series vaguely based on some sort of Eastern Buddhist myth and dubbed badly into English. The central character was a sort of half-man, half-monkey, who travels around on a flying cloud beating up bad guys. The associated merchandise was a BBC single of the signature tune, which my parents bought me and I would play again and again.

What’s your guilty pleasure?

I don’t subscribe to the term “guilty pleasure”, but the worst programme I like is Homes Under the Hammer. I can’t believe it’s on; they might as well televise an auditor going through a paper manufacturer’s accounts. I find it absorbing, possibly because it’s on when I’m supposed to be working.

What would you cancel a night out for?

Sherlock. I love Sherlock Holmes and I was initially annoyed by the idea that it was set in the modern day so I tuned in with my arms folded. But it’s so stylish, fast-moving and brilliantly acted that I fell in love with him all over again.

What makes you blush?

The comedy of embarrassment can make me shudder, as well as laugh. If I’m feeling a little more sensitive than usual, watching an episode of Frasier or The Office is hard – brilliant though they are.

Does your wife Victoria Coren share your tastes?

Relatively. She’s keener on reality TV, but then she gambles on it. We watch boxed sets: recently 30 Rock and Homeland, which I quite liked.

What would you love to present?

Hosting Have I Got News For You? is brilliant fun. They’re doing very well having lots of hosts, so I wouldn’t necessarily advocate getting me to do it every week. But if they asked me, I’d be very surprised if I said “no”.

What programme would you rescue from the archives?

Not being rude about our era but there’s virtually nothing left: everything’s been brought back. I’d probably put my shoulder behind the commissioning of new shows.

Have you done that recently?

I haven’t filmed it yet but my new show Was It Something I Said? is based on quotations. The aim is to make it loose and discursive, not brash and impactful – although TV commissioners probably wouldn’t want me to say that we don’t want it to be impactful! I want it to be more of a cardigan of a comedy show than a baseball cap.

…even though viewers will be able to play along on Twitter. Do you do much tweeting?

No. It’s so public. If you’re on TV and tweet anything, it’s like sending out a press release. That makes me more reticent to talk about what I’m having for lunch in case a journalist infers it’s a statement about our farming industry.

Who would be your ideal dinner-party guest?

Peter Cook. I’m a huge fan of his comedy, but also I sense that for much of his life he was under-productive. I get the feeling that the best of Cook was what he was like as a person – if you met him on a good day.

Who would you cast in a film of your life?

I’d want the work. I’ve just finished shooting a comedy drama for BBC2 about a British embassy in one of the ex-Soviet “stans” with Robert Webb and really enjoyed it. Much as I like doing 10 O’Clock Live and that kind of thing, I definitely don’t want to stop acting.


QUICKFIRE Q&A

1. TOWIE or Made in Chelsea? I’ve never watched either. Maybe they’re both brilliant.

2. MasterChef or Bake Off? Bake Off

3. Radio 4 or Radio 2? Radio 4

4. Michael McIntyre or John Bishop? Michael McIntyre

5. Antiques Roadshow or University Challenge? Oh, that’s a tricky one. Antiques Roadshow.


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10 O’Clock Live returns tonight at 10pm on Channel 4.