Friday, 14 December 2018

Acting the idiot in front of drunks is great career move

A COMEDIAN who made his name in Channel 4 sitcom Friday Night Dinner is one of the leading acts at

A COMEDIAN who made his name in Channel 4 sitcom Friday Night Dinner is one of the leading acts at this year’s Henley Fringe Festival.

Tom Rosenthal, who plays Johnnie in the comedy show will deliver his one-hour stand-up routine at Lovibonds brewery in July before heading north to take his show to the Edinburgh Festival. But for Rosenthal, son of TV sports presenter Jim, his visit to Henley will also be a trip down memory lane, as he attended Reading Blue Coat School in Sonning and has many friends in the area.

Although he started doing stand-up while still at school, it wasn’t until he left King’s College, London with a degree in philosophy that he got his lucky break into showbiz.

“It seemed to be the best real career option,” he said. “A lot of my friends got firsts in history but couldn’t find work, but then I got a part in Friday Night Dinner.

“While I was at university I did open mics, and I just kept doing it. I’d thought about being a lawyer, because my dad had a friend who was a lawyer and he was really rich — he had a castle — then I thought maybe I’d go into advertising. But actually, being a dick or professional idiot in front of lots of drunk people seemed to work for me.

“It’s a nice career being your own boss and working as hard as you want.”

Rosenthal will be making his third series of Friday Night Dinner in September, but he has also played Marcus in ITV2’s Ancient Rome sitcom Plebs. His character is a straightlaced citizen trying to scratch a living in the Eternal City.

In fact, it was while filming for Plebs in Bulgaria last November that he got the inspiration to write material for the stand-up show he intends to play at the Henley Fringe Festival. The title of the show is “Thanks” in Bulgarian — a word he rattles off but says he’s unable to write because it’s in Cyrillic script, but which comes out sounding like “Bruvver Daddies”.

“You can call it that if you like,” he says. “The show is all about going to Bulgaria which was an amazing experience. I’d never been to Eastern Europe before and it’s a very absorbing country, and an alien culture. It’s had so many different empires that have passed through — from the Ottomans to the Soviets.

“Comedy is all about human behaviour, and noticing the ways we are all similar and the ways we are all different.

“There’s comedy in everything really — you can make anything funny if you are good enough.”

His comedy hero — the comedian he idolised as a kid — is Ricky Gervais, and in particular his role in The Office. However, he says he steers clear now of emulating other comedians.

“Comedy is all about finding a unique voice and freeing yourself from your influences,” he says. “As you watch more and analyse it, you do laugh less, but I still love watching comedy. It’s wonderful listening to people talk eloquently and intelligently about things. It’s a craft that I’m very passionate about — though you laugh more when things go wrong, really.”

Other comedians playing at this year’s sixth fringe festival include Mark Restuccia, who makes a return visit with an update to last year’s stand-up show, How To Beat Internet Dating.

The fringe also features several plays, including two new productions from fringe favourites, FalconGrange Productions, who last year earned rave reviews for John Godber comedy One For The Road. This year they will be performing another Godber comedy, Men Of The World at the Henley Rugby Club, as well as The Lion And The Mouse, a children’s show adapted from an Aesop’s fable.

Festival director Jo Southwell said: “We are moving the festival forward this year, and I’m delighted that the Greenwich Theatre and Principal Theatre Company will be performing at Henley. They are truly wonderful companies to watch. I know audiences will love them.”

The Greenwich Theatre Touring Company bring three shows — one for adults, one for children, and a musical — while the Principal Theatre Company will perform an open-air version of Shakespeare plays Hamlet and The Comedy Of Errors at a new venue, in the grounds of the Eyot Centre.

For details about the festival, from July 22 to 27, visit

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