A quick chat with David Mitchell

In the sort of discreet London club where political movers and shakers meet to discuss policy, David Mitchell sits in a room on his own, the day’s newspapers spread in front of him.

The comic is preparing for his new Channel 4 show, 10 O’Clock Live (Thursday, January 20, 10pm), a weekly satirical look at news and politics which sees Mitchell reunite with Charlie Brooker, Lauren Laverne and Jimmy Carr following the success of their Alternative Election Night special last May.

TV&Satellite Week magazine diverted Mitchell’s attention away from the papers long enough for him to explain the show’s format…

What’s the idea for the series?

“It’s a weekly live political satire show, which is not something that’s existed for a while in this country. The idea is to be entertaining, frivolous and flippant while scrutinising and satirising the political situation we are in at the moment.”

Who’s doing what?

“I’m doing the interviews and panel discussions. Charlie’s doing pre-recorded films which he’ll introduce live on the night and Jimmy will have a monologue to camera. Lauren, who has the most live TV experience, is anchoring it all and doing the news elements that are broader than just politics.”

Did you always intend to do a series after the election night show?

“No, ironically I only agreed to do that show because it was a one-off. I thought if it was a disaster I could just quickly put it behind me. But it strikes me now as a natural and obvious comedy thing to be doing. We’re grabbing the opportunity to get in there and do it before somebody else also comes up with the idea.”

So are you gleefully scanning the papers looking for bad news?

”Yes, I’m hoping for division, argument and strife – but only within Westminster, not in the country at large.”

Are you a news junkie?

“I keep up with the news because I have to in order to write a topical column for The Observer newspaper. I like the idea of feeling informed but I can let it slip. If I miss the papers one day, I don’t start to itch all over.”

So will scouring the newspapers each day be a chore for you?

“Actually, I look on it as being really time-efficient. This way I can make another use professionally of the knowledge I was already gleaning to write my column.”

Is there enough going on for a weekly political satire show?

“There have been years when British politics has been stable and stagnant, but I don’t think 2011 will be one. The cracks are beginning to appear in the Coalition. Things could really kick off soon politically. For the purposes of this show, it would be brilliant if they did.”

Are you very politically involved?

“No, I’ve never been involved in politics. I prefer to stay on the outside, carping.”

Was it TV satire that inspired you to get into comedy?

“Far from it. I grew up watching Terry and June and I’m still very fond of it for that reason. The title sequence where Terry’s deckchair collapses under him while he’s holding his drink was a formative lesson in why things that aren’t supposed to happen in real life have to happen to make comedy work. If anything inspired me, it must have been watching that.”