Review: ‘Back Story: A Memoir’ by David Mitchell

29th May 2013

HarperCollins UK

Back storyDavid Mitchell (the comic, not the novelist) has a bad back. He’s found that vigorous daily walks help ease the pain. In the course of this memoir we join him on his daily walk around London and hear about his life. He may give the impression of being from a background not too far removed from Buckingham Palace, but in fact his parents were hotel mangers, until his father decided to start teaching hotel management at the polytechnic in Oxford. He is a public school boy though, his parents scraped together as much as they could to send him to a semi-decent public school in Oxford. He was a bit of a swot but still managed to not get into Oxford University. Taking a year off after school at his Mother’s insistence he worked for OUP and did a bit of travelling, as well as applying to study history at Cambridge.

He got in there. Three years later, after wasting his time with theatricals and forming the comedy partnership that would bring him to fame, with Robert Webb, he graduated with a 2:2. He then went to London and spent the next next dozen years building his career as a TV comedian.

David Mitchell makes me laugh; he’s intelligent and articulate. He’s very good at panel shows – both TV and radio. I’m not so sure about his sketch shows though.

As I read this book I could hear his voice chattering away; it’s written with the same light yet witty and ardent tone he uses in stand up and on panel shows. In his memoir he’s quite open and honest about his life, his feelings about his work, his public persona and fame.

This is a wittily written memoir, a good addition to the library of anyone interested in modern British comics, fans of That Mitchell and Webb Look/Sound or Peep Show.

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