‚ÄúHe‚Äôd seen Peep Show and Would I Lie To You?,‚ÄĚ says David, 44, when we meet to chat about the third series. ‚ÄúAnd my sort of rattly, nasal voice got into his head. It was delightful ‚Äď
I didn‚Äôt even have to audition.
‚ÄúSeeing Shakespeare as an angry loser is a more plausible take on what he might have been like than seeing him as a romantic lead. And if he was portrayed as a romantic lead, there‚Äôs no chance I would have been offered it!‚ÄĚ
Upstart Crow follows Shakespeare in the 1590s when he was writing his most famous plays but still found life an uphill struggle.
He commuted between London, where he worked, and Stratford, where his family lived; he struggled for ideas and tussled with jealous theatrical rivals wanting to bring him down.
In fact, while Ben plays fast and loose with Shakespeare‚Äôs character to make him funny and endearing, many of the weird characters and plot twists are real, reveals David.
‚ÄúBen has informed himself about the man extremely fully. He‚Äôs forever saying, ‚ÄėThat‚Äôs a bit of artistic invention but rooted in truth.‚Äô Ben‚Äôs really done his research.‚ÄĚ
What makes Upstart Crow funny is a script of amusing faux-Elizabethan dialogue alongside very clever jokes about contemporary problems, from unreliable public transport and the #MeToo movement to Brexit and British snobbery.
‚ÄúI think for Ben‚Äôs solo writing, Upstart Crow is his best work,‚ÄĚ says David.
The fact that comedy veterans and even movie stars are clamouring for guest roles supports his claim.
In last year‚Äôs Christmas special, Emma Thompson made a big impression as Queen Elizabeth I and this year Kenneth Branagh (coincidentally, Thompson‚Äôs ex-husband) will guest star as a mysterious stranger alongside model-turned-actress Lily Cole.
The current run features guest spots from Ben Miller and two veterans of Ben Elton‚Äôs much-loved sitcom The Young Ones, Nigel Planer and Adrian Edmondson.
They join series regulars Harry Enfield and Paula Wilcox as Shakespeare‚Äôs parents, Liza Tarbuck as his wife Anne Hathaway, and Mark Heap as duplicitous colleague Robert Greene.
‚ÄúEveryone who‚Äôs come in to the show has been absolutely brilliant and charming,‚ÄĚ says David.
‚ÄúEmma Thompson was fun and hilarious and flatteringly behaved as if she was thrilled to be there ‚Äď so all of our nerves about working with her evaporated in the face of her enthusiasm and charm. And she was just so funny.
‚ÄúI had an identically positive experience with Kenneth Branagh this year. They were both brilliant and showed us why they‚Äôre such successful people.‚ÄĚ
The hardest part about playing Shakespeare is Ben‚Äôs wordy scripts in pretend Elizabethan, as well as filming in front of a live studio audience.
‚ÄúWith Ben‚Äôs Elizabethan-contemporary mix, it‚Äôs carefully written syllable by syllable, and you don‚Äôt want to get any of it wrong.‚ÄĚ
This week‚Äôs first episode centres on Shakespeare‚Äôs attempts to write the comedy A Midsummer Night‚Äôs Dream.
It starts out with Will thinking it‚Äôll be a play of gritty social realism about the under-representation of fairies, pixies and sprites in drama.
When everyone tells him that sounds boring, he has to come up with a way to make it funny.
‚ÄúWe do take the mick out of Shakespeare, but at the same time he‚Äôs the hero,‚ÄĚ muses David.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs a positive representation of him and his struggle and creative energy.‚ÄĚ