One of the things I found interesting was his discovery of comedy and theatre and how it completely shunted him off traditional academe and into the realm of Footlights and fame and performance... so much so that his academic studies were all but abandoned in favour of sketch and play writing.
Believe it or not I too had dreams of writing comedy when I was in my teens.
Indeed I dabbled quite extensively. I wrote scripts that myself and my sisters performed via rudimentary microphones onto C90 tape – I even performed my own foley work. I drew cartoons. Once I had improved my recording equipment my mate Dave and I ad libbed our way through many a Saturday night in the early 1990’s coming up with enough sketches, impressions and jokey songs to make our own radio programme.
Most of it was excruciatingly bad, of course. Teenage toilet humour, puerile sex jokes and brickbats of buffoonery that targeted the most obvious of social stereotypes. Hardly high comedy. But in amongst the swamp of post school-boy, clod-hopping satire there were a few nuggets of genuine comedy. Material that would actually make an outsider laugh and laugh for all the right reasons, i.e. laughing with us not at us (though technically laughing at us). Because we had done something deliberately funny and not just because we had made complete arses of ourselves.
What frustrates me the most now (aside from Katie McGrath not returning my emails) is how little I did with it. All that material I produced, all that energy I invested... and then I just let it all sit and mildew. My God, why didn’t I send it into the BBC or some farty little local radio station? They might have hated it. They might have hated it but nevertheless given us advice to improve it.
They might have loved it.
This laziness and lack of motivation even in the face of achieving your wildest dreams is not uncommon in teenagers. Even David Mitchell refers to interest he received from an agent very early in his nascent career but that he didn’t really follow through on or capitalize on. The agent merely asked David to keep in touch but David didn’t. And in the end the agent dropped his interest.
Of course in the end, it worked out for David. He continued with the dream, pursued it, lived it. Trod the boards so to speak.
Have I continued to tread the boards or did I give up on it? I’m really not sure how to answer that. I certainly don’t write sketches or plays anymore or sing comedy songs. But I have been known to inject my novels and even my blog posts with the odd heroin hit of humour.
But it’s not the same is it?
I often wonder what would have happened if I’d joined a theatre group or gone to university in my teens "when I was supposed to" rather than in my late twenties when I’d finally summoned up the nerve.
And that I think is the difference between me and Mr Mitchell. We’re both nerds – I’m sure he won’t object to me saying that – but he had more guts than I did and a hell of a lot more nerve. More nerve to turn his back on his academic studies and pursue a crazy dream despite the huge risk of failure.
My trouble is I’ve always played it safe.
And you’ll never play to a full house playing like that.