Mitch Benn tells us about his murderous rages and funny daughter
It’s been a fun-filled couple of months at the Laughter Factory, with one comic act after another causing the crowds to roll in the aisles. The run of gag-fests continues this week with a turn from Mitch Benn, a British comedian who does a very funny line in comedy songs. A regular contributor to various BBC shows, he’s penned tracks on everything from wanting to kill James Blunt to what would happen if he ate and drank his way through the entire contents of a duty-free store. What can we expect from your show? Will you be changing you material to suit Dubai? I travel a lot and I’ve often thought that the notion that people have different senses of humour in different places is largely nonsense. Funny is funny as long as people know what you’re talking about – I mean, there’s no point being in Shanghai and going on about London’s tube strikes. Basically it’ll be me singing songs and going on long, rambling spiels. That’s more or less what I do – a sprawling, rambling free-flow!
Are you planning to write any songs about the UAE? Yes, if I get a spare minute I might just pen a song about the Middle East. I like to write stuff when I’m abroad, just observational stuff about what I see on the ground.
Have you ever thought about just sticking to music or comedy? Well, sometimes I do straight music. I try to sneak tracks on to my albums that aren’t funny to see if anyone notices. In fact, probably the biggest success I’ve had recently back in the UK is a song called ‘I’m Proud of the BBC’. The BBC is really under the cosh at the moment and that makes me anxious and indignant. We should be doing more to defend it – it’s a really great organisation. But that song wouldn’t be regarded as funny if anyone except me had written it.
Most of your comedy songs tend to be more negative than that one… Oh, you’re probably thinking of ‘I May Just Have to Murder James Blunt.’ That was a good few years ago, when ‘You’re Beautiful’ [Benn screeches the title] was playing everywhere. At one point, I was trying to get some work done and it was on four consecutive channels, and I just said, ‘I’m gonna kill him.’ I had this murderous rage against him.
When you’re not writing songs, you seem to spend a lot of time on Twitter. When I first got into Twitter it was great fun, but if you’re in the public eye, it does give you an uncomfortable concrete barometer of exactly how famous you aren’t. I have 20,000 followers now, though.
You also post your four-year-old daughter Greta’s comments. Do you think she’s as funny as you? Well, I’m probably funnier on purpose, but she’s more naturally funny; although as she grows up, the funniness is getting thinner on the ground. I hope no one thinks I’m takes the mickey out of her – the Twitter feed is really just a celebration of her extraordinary thought process. She’s completely confident in a way you can only be when you’re four. She’s just lovely and hilarious.
Who has inspired your comedy the most? Tom Lehrer is a US singer-songwriter who was amazingly ahead of his time. He did songs about nuclear testing in the late ’50s and early ’60s. It was really edgy, grim stuff! He was a maths lecturer at Harvard University, who started off by writing funny songs to amuse his friends. He has a fantastic way with a tricky rhyme, which is great fun, and musically his stuff was very good. I think to validate a musical joke, you have to at least be approaching the level of musicality of the person you’re having a go at. Otherwise you’re just sniggering at stuff you can’t do. So that was something I took from him.