There he began performing with the Cambridge Footlights, of which he became president.
He met Robert Webb in his first year at university, at an audition for a student pantomime of Cinderella, with the two men setting up a comedy partnership.
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He was born in Salisbury, Wiltshire, England, to Ian Douglas Mitchell and Kathy Grey Mitchell (née Hughes), who were then hotel managers.
In 1977, his parents gave up their jobs in order to look after a then two year old Mitchell.
He was an only child until seven and a half years old when his parents had another son.
I didn't admit I wanted to be a comedian until I came to university, met a lot of other people who wanted to be comedians, and realised it was an okay thing to say.
From the age of twelve he was educated at the independent Abingdon School in Oxfordshire.
Having always been top of the class at primary school, once he moved to Abingdon he realised that there were plenty of people more intelligent than he was, and so turned his attention to debating and drama "where [he] had a chance of being the best." There, Mitchell often took part in plays, "largely because you got to play cards backstage." His roles mainly consisted of small minute-long parts, until he won the role of Rabbit in Winnie the Pooh, and this was the first time that he was "consciously aware I was doing a performance" and that that "was better, even, than playing cards." Mitchell had been "obsessed" with comedy writing since his school days, as he "always felt that doing a joke was the cleverest thing", and "would intrinsically prefer a parody of something to the actual thing itself".In 1993 he went up to Peterhouse, Cambridge where he read history.The family moved to Oxford where Mitchell's parents became lecturers on hotel management at Oxford Polytechnic.Ian was born in Liverpool of Scottish ancestry and Kathy is Welsh so Mitchell considers himself British rather than English.In a 2006 interview with The Independent, Mitchell stated his childhood dreams: When I was at school I either wanted to be a comedian-stroke-actor or prime minister.But I didn't admit that to other people, I said I wanted to be a barrister and that made my parents very happy.