Liverpudlian comic Mitch Benn tells Katherine MacAlister why his latest show really had to be written

Don’t get him wrong, Mitch Benn wouldn’t be doing a show about the Beatles if he didn’t love them, even if he is a stand-up comic.

So while his current show, Mitch Benn – The 37th Beatle, is tongue-in-cheek, it’s not disrespectful and neither is it a tribute act, “not in the sense of a wig, suit, cover version and a glue on moustache,” he laughs. “It’s just my tenuous connections to the Beatles.”

As a Liverpudlian the Beatles were all encompassing. “I was born in 1970 and spent the rest of my life hearing how the 1960s was the best decade. So it was hard to avoid the Beatles in my generation because they have shaped everything since. “You can’t escape them, even the indigenous tree tribes in Papua New Guinea know about the Beatles,” he says.

On counting up the contenders for the title of fifth Beatle however, Mitch got to 36, coming up with a neat format for a new show as well as being able to expound on his favourite subject and reminisce about his home town. “The 37th Beatle is written from the point of view of someone who just missed it,” he tells me.

Having taken the show to Edinburgh last year he is about to embark on a national tour, which comes to Chipping Norton tomorrow night. “I still look forward to doing it every day which makes a heck of a difference,” he says.

When not performing this show, or writing the next, you can find him locked in his uncle’s shed writing the third part of his sci-fi trilogy, a new avenue Mitch is enormously enjoying. “At the moment the third book is a crazy jumble of ideas swirling around in my head, so I’m trying to get them down on paper.“ The first book Terra was published last summer, the second is due this July and the third is in the pipeline. Mitch is also working on a couple of new songs to add to the tour. So is it hard to do it all? “No I’ve got an orderly, compartmentalized head and I’m very focused on stage,” he says. “But I make sure the music isn’t perfunctory, or just a mechanical means of getting the words out, because if you are deconstructing a Beatles song you have to get it right to validate the point.”

Mitch then disputes the assumption that he is just a frustrated rock star. “I never tried. I was in bands when I was a kid, but stand-up isn’t something I was side-tracked into, it’s what I’ve always done, even at primary school. I’ve never done anything else. I had no day job to quit. But I’m from Liverpool and I was rubbish at football.”

Firmly establishing himself as a Radio 4 favourite on The Now Show, he has been on the comedy circuit ever since. Which is why he’s relishing his new role as author so much.

“Science fiction is an abiding obsession, and writing these books has fulfilled a life long ambition. So it’s nice being the new guy and really refreshing to be doing something different.”

He’s also great pals with fellow sci-fi authorsTerry Pratchett and Neil Gaiman, which he compares to being a novice singer-wongwriter being best friends with Elton John, “They can rake it in and still remain relatively unknown,” he says enviously.

But surely Mitch would never give up comedy completely? “I could be a lot more choosy about what and where I perform, because at the moment I’m exhausting my skill set and while I haven’t got an HGV licence, with all the miles I do I could get one. But no, of course not. It’s what I do.”

As for the show, does Mitch think he’ll offend anyone by sending up his idols? “Humour undermines everything the Beatles did, and there is an undertone of daftness and silliness thoughout their music, both on and off stage. Look at Yellow Submarine or The Octopus’ Garden, When I’m 64 or Maxwell’s Silver Hammer. So you’d have to be a bit weird to be offended and slightly missing the point of The Beatles. But we’ll wait and see, perhaps they’ll be throwing things at me yet.”

Mitch Benn – The 37th Beatle, a comical mystery tour of all things fab, comes to Chipping Norton Theatre tomorrow at 7.45pm. See or Call 01608 642350