I love David Mitchell. Just to clarify, I am of course referring to the David Mitchell who stars in one of my favourite ever sitcoms, ‘Peep Show’, rather than the David Mitchell who wrote a really weird book called ‘Cloud Atlas‘ which I failed to finish earlier this year. ‘Back Story’ is David (‘Peep Show’) Mitchell’s memoir about his peaceful middle-class childhood, his experiences with Footlights at Cambridge University and his route to fame as a critically acclaimed actor and comedian. It definitely has nothing to do with ‘Cloud Atlas’ although Mitchell says he is frequently mistaken for the author of the bestselling book.
As a fan of Mitchell, it was always likely that I would enjoy his autobiography and therefore this book (and my review) will probably only be of interest to those who are also familiar with his TV comedy work and his journalism for The Guardian. I don’t read autobiographies very often as they can often be a bit self-indulgent and/or ghost-written but Mitchell is both self-deprecating and literate which makes ‘Back Story’ both entertaining and engaging.
Mitchell enjoys walking and guides the reader on a tour around North London from Kilburn to the BBC studios, using each location as a launching point for a different part of his life. It’s a good format and overall, it works. Much of the book focuses on his student days at Cambridge and his early career with his main comedy partner, Robert Webb. Although this section was perhaps a little over-long, Mitchell gives a good insight into the workings of the television industry and the frustrating process of getting a pilot commissioned.
Mitchell comes across as a genuinely likeable and thoroughly decent sort of chap who deserves both his personal and career successes. In particular, the chapter about his relationship with Victoria Coren (who also happens to be the host of my favourite TV quiz show, ‘Only Connect’) is very moving. It goes without saying that if you enjoy Mitchell’s comedy, then you will like this book. If nothing else, it definitely beats ‘Cloud Atlas’…