Spending time in a Philosophy department certainly encouraged a kind of alternative thinking which assists comedic endeavours.Tom Rosenthal
17 August 2020
King's Alumni Comedian: “Being part of King's meant part of being part of a creative collective”
King’s Alumni Tom Rosenthal is a successful actor and comedian
King’s Alumni Tom Rosenthal is a successful actor and comedian who stars in TV shows Friday Night Dinner and Plebs. He graduated in 2009 with an undergraduate degree in Philosophy and credits his King’s College London experience for helping to develop his performing career.
“Every year King’s very kindly paid for the King’s Players to stay in Edinburgh for the festival to put on a bad play, and I gladly abused such generosity. These were invaluable professional experiences preparing me for a career performing low quality material to small, uninterested audiences.
"These times really ignited a passion for the Edinburgh Festival that has never dwindled and every year I fondly remember my time as a passionate student actor as I refuse their flyers in the street.”
Tom also credits his King’s College London education for giving him the critical thinking to support his comedy.
"There is a crossover between Philosophy and comedy in that they both aspire to remove themselves from the accepted truths of a culture to provide more objective evaluations of its machinations, which is a very highfalutin way to say they both encourage you to think a bit weird.
"The fact this prompted Rene Descartes to write meditations positing mind-body dualism and me to write a stand-up show about being circumcised is irrelevant.”
Tom believes that the arts and humanities are the source of society’s richness, giving meaning to life.
“Most people end some point end up asking what the actual point of life is. For me this is a question that the arts are probably closer to answering than the sciences. To fully conform to the stereotype of a 2:1 Philosophy student and quote Friedrich Nietszche, I think there’s definitely an argument that ‘Art is the proper task of life.’”
“From a purely creative standpoint, storytellers need to learn the stories of the past in order to better tell those of the present and the future. It is a bleak world that watches a crap King’s Players play at Edinburgh and therefore surmises that the world needs less arts. Because with fewer bad plays, there’ll be fewer good ones too.”
Tom says that being part of King’s meant part of being part of a creative collective.
"The people I did bad student plays with have now gone onto amazing ventures like setting up festivals, reviewing games on YouTube, directing operas, becoming resident artists at galleries and, well, putting on better plays.”
“King’s gave me a support network of incredibly diverse, intelligent people whom I have regularly lent on as solid intellectual and artistic contemporaries (humans say ‘friends’).”
Studying Philosophy at King’s also allowed Tom a lot of spare time to practice his comedy in arguably the best city for stand-up in the world, and to learn vital experience, such as when performing a gig at Guy’s Campus, “don’t call them King’s students - they don’t like that”.
“Previously I had thought the main rivalry to be UCL vs King’s, but I learnt that night it’s actually more Medicine vs Humanities, and indeed when seen in the context of people who save lives vs people who take plays to Edinburgh fringe one can perhaps see their point.”
As soon as he left King’s, Tom won starring roles in both Friday Night Dinner and Plebs which are both multi-award winning and have run for the subsequent decade.
“I have convinced my mother that a decision to study Philosophy wasn’t totally insane. Currently I am working mainly on improving my golf swing and strengthening my glutes during Lockdown, but when the Coronavirus stops being quite so obnoxious I’ll be restarting my stand-up tour (currently February 2021 but genuinely anyone’s guess).”
Rosenthal’s latest stand-up show Manhood has been described by the Guardian as ‘a striking show, raising questions and laughter in equal measure’.
See https://www.tomrosenthal.net/ for more information.