David Mitchell so worried over Strictly star Robert Webb's heart op 'I wished it was me'

When Robert Webb steps out on the new series of Strictly , his dance-phobic comedy partner David Mitchell will breathe a sigh of relief that he s not in his pal s shoes.

Yet David says he felt the complete opposite when Robert was having emergency heart surgery last year, admitting: “In all honesty I thought, ‘If only it could have been me’.”

The pair – friends since meeting 28 years ago at Cambridge University – were working together on series two of their sitcom Back when a medical for the show’s insurers revealed Robert’s heart was perilously close to failing.

David, 47, recalled: “Rob had a very, very serious heart condition.

“When they make you have medicals for TV shows you think they don’t check anything – this guy saved Rob’s life.

“I was very worried about him. He had open-heart surgery two weeks later.

“We stopped filming and started again when he recovered from the operation.”

How do you think Robert will do on Strictly Come Dancing? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section

© BBC Robert Webb and dance partner Dianne Buswell

Robert, 48, needed the surgery for a birth defect in his mitral valve, which stops blood flowing the wrong way in the heart.

He was off work for almost four months – returning just three weeks ­before the first Covid lockdown shut down ­production yet again.

They finally managed to put the finishing touches to the series in September last year.

Robert has previously said that in some scene s he looks “incredibly pasty and bloated and f***** – because my heart had almost doubled in size”.

© BBC In 2009 Robert won Let’s Dance for Comic Relief

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Now, already weeks into training for the BBC dance contest, he looks healthier.

On last night’s show his partner was revealed as 32-year-old flame-haired Australian Dianne Buswell, left.

It is far from being Robert’s first time dancing on TV. In 2009 he won Let’s Dance for Comic Relief, doing a Flashdance parody wearing a black leotard, leg-warmers and a curly wig.

And in 2018 he was showing off his moves again in Comedy Central’s Lip Sync Battle UK, impressing with his footwork to George Michael’s Careless Whisper, then dressing as Kylie Minogue to perform her No1 hit Can’t Get You Out of My Head.

© Collect Unknown A youthful Robert Webb poses for a picture

And David – who shot to fame alongside Robert in cult Channel 4 sitcom Peep Show – is confident we will see his pal top the leader board.

Speaking to stand-up comic Richard Herring at London’s Leicester Square Theatre, he said: “I think Robert will do well on it because he can dance.

“He won Let’s Dance for Comic Relief – he dressed up as a lady. He was funny. He likes dancing.”

But David has ruled out Strictly himself because he fears the judges are much too hard to please.

The Would I Lie to You? team captain said: “Would I do Strictly? I’d much rather do Taskmaster because [on Strictly] they have to dance endlessly.

“I’m not that keen on puzzles but they’re preferable to dancing.

“If it was, like, a couple of hours’ practice on a Thursday, then the studio ­rehearsal on a Friday and then [the show] on the Saturday and they say ‘Well done’, then maybe. But instead it’s rehearsing all day, every day for the whole week and then they say, ‘That was a bit s***.’ So, no. It would be too exhausting and I have knee and back issues.”

© BBC David and Robert appear in a sketch in series 4 of Mitchell and Webb Look

The pair, whose That Mitchell and Webb Look sketch show ran for four series, met in a 1993 Cambridge Footlights production of Cinderella.

Fellow actors there included comic Matt Holness, who also stars in comedy series Back.

Among the celebrities joining Robert on Strictly will be McFly’s Tom Fletcher, Olympic swimmer Adam Peaty and Dragons’ Den star Sara Davies.

Admitting his heart op was one factor in his taking part, Robert said: “It’s just a straightforward wish to jump up and down in funny costumes for the viewing pleasure of the British public, mainly.

“There’s also the fact that two years ago I had to have quite a big heart operation. It gave me a slightly different perspective.

“It was between yes and no – ‘Yes’ felt like the bigger, more expansive answer. ‘No’ would have left me feeling like a coward.”

Unsurprisingly, he also says he is well and truly up for being “Strictly-fied”.

He said: “I’m up for an extreme costume. You can spray me most colours – but I just don’t want to look like Donald Trump.”

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