David Mitchell advanced to the front of a long line of cutting-edge British comedy luminaries as star of the envelope-pushing Channel 4 sitcom "Peep Show" (2003- ) and proceeded to ensconce himself as...
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He was born David James Stuart Mitchell on July 14, 1974, in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, the son of hoteliers Ian and Kathy Mitchell. The family made the move to Oxford when both parents landed jobs teaching hotel management at Oxford Polytechnic. David grew into a standout student and developed his discursive skills in speech extracurriculars, drama and debate at the venerable Abingdon School in nearby Abingdon. As his wit sharpened, he hid a yen to become a comedy writer and performer out of fear it was too disreputable. It was not until he matriculated at Cambridge University in 1993, ostensibly to study history, that he met similarly comedy-minded cohorts. He joined up with the university's storied satirical performance troupe, Footlights, where he met Rob Webb. The two began collaborating on their own sketches and plays and, after graduation, staged a succession of original works at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. They landed work as a writing duo and on-air talent on a succession of short-lived TV projects, notable among them the surrealist sketch show "Big Train," (BBC, 1998-2002), which starred a young Simon Pegg; "Bruiser" (BBC, 2000), which saw them in a troupe that included Martin Freeman and Olivia Colman (the latter to be a regular in all their ensuing projects); and the six-episode sketch series "The Mitchell and Webb Situation" (Play UK, 2001), which, though little-seen, earned them critical accolades.
In 2003, the underwatched program led to what would be their breakthrough project, "Peep Show." Mitchell and Webb teamed up with writers Jess Armstrong and Sam Bain to put a new spin on an "Odd Couple" concept, with the twist being that the narrative would be shot through character POVs and embellished by their snarky internal dialogue. Mitchell played Mark, a frumpy, grossly insecure office drone incapable of emotional honesty, to Webb's Jeremy, a mercurial, obliviously narcissistic would-be hipster; the creators distinguished the characters' cringe-inducing social foibles by expending little effort to mine redeeming qualities out of them. Bowing on Channel 4 in 2003, the show drew small audiences but universal raves both from critics and Britain's comedy community. Celebrated as the new vanguard of cutting-edge comedy, the partners returned to sketch work with "That Mitchell and Webb Sound" on BBC Radio 4 during their non-"Peep Show" work periods. In 2006 they adapted that as a concurrent series for BBC TV, "That Mitchell and Webb Look." Between the two series, Mitchell and Webb became constants among nominees for major awards for television comedy, becoming the new Ricky Gervais and Stephen Merchant.
"Peep Show" took home the British Comedy Award for Best TV Comedy in 2006 and 2007 and the BAFTA for Best Sitcom in 2008, while "That Mitchell and Webb Look" won the BAFTA for Best Comedy Show in 2007. Mitchell and Webb were jointly nominated for the BCA for Best TV Comedy Actor in 2006, and Mitchell won it the next year and its BAFTA counterpart in 2009. The duo also rated their first feature film as they took starring roles in the Bain and Armstrong-penned "Magicians," released in 2007. In a "Peep Show" vein, they played a onetime illusionist duo act who clumsily trying to piece together a partnership that ended amid cuckoldry and grizzly death. Their cred took a hit in 2007 when the pair agreed to engender PC and Mac types in the U.K. version of Apple's "Get a Mac" ad campaign. Mitchell picked up some work outside the dyad, highlighted by a recurring role on the Jennifer Saunders/Dawn French reunion project, "Jam and Jerusalem" (BBC, 2006- ), and a conspicuous flurry of appearances on Britain's numerous current event comedy-panel shows.
In 2005, Mitchell had initially done a brief stint as host of the panel/quiz show "FAQ U" (Channel 4, 2005- ) and his talents for blistering off-the-cuff analysis increasingly made him a hot commodity on the panel-show circuit as he became a staple on such series as "QI" (BBC, 2003- ), "Have I Got News for You" (BBC, 1990- ) and "Mock the Week" (BBC, 2005- ). He built on his growing imprint as a public affairs wit by writing a column for the U.K.'s Guardian and Observer newspapers; recording a series of cutting online rants under the rubric "David Mitchell's Soapbox;" and, in 2010, taking on presenter duties (along with Jimmy Carr, Charlie Brooker and Lauren Laverne) on a live U.K. election-night comedy analysis show for Channel 4, "Alternative Election Night." Channel 4 greenlit a regular version of the show "10 O'Clock Live" (2011- ) in which he delivered barbed monologues similar to his "Soapbox." On a substantial roll, HarperCollins published Mitchell's autobiography, Back Story: A Memoir in 2012, and later that year, Mitchell wed TV presenter and fellow Guardian and Observer contributor Victoria Coren.
By Matthew Grimm
From classic movie palaces to the state-of-the-art IMAX screens.