‘I have nothing but pure antipathy for LSE’: An interview with King’s grad and Friday Night Dinner’s Tom Rosenthal

It’s Jonny from Friday Night Dinner!

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Tom Rosenthal is best known for starring in TV's Friday Night Dinner and Plebs, as well as for his stand up comedy.

Now, the KCL alumnus is trying something new, hosting MTV’s Refreshers Week, presented by Strongbow, which also stars Gemma Collins.

The reality show is set at an imaginary university where contestants are sent back to university to "re-fresh" their lives.

We sat down with Rosenthal and ask him some questions about his time at KCL and about the show. It also gave us a chance to have a sneak preview of The Vault, which Rosenthal commented seems really nice and fresh, and the food was great.

However, he is concerned that there is only one pool table and there might be some fighting over it, but I’m sure we’ll work around it!

So Tom, tell me a bit more about your involvement with MTV’s Refreshers Week presented by Strongbow?

This world has been created where normal people go back to university and are presented with new challenges each week, so it’s a made up university but with all the Strongbow colours. I’m the dean, so the "normal presenter" if you will. I’m a bit like Alan Sugar on The Apprentice, but the head of the students, so quite patronising and disrespectful."

Right, so people get a chance to be freshers again? That sounds like fun. What advice would you give to all the new people arriving at university this week?

When you first go to uni, you tend to make friends with a load of people in the first few weeks and then a couple of months later you meet a load more people who you like more, so I’d say wait until you find people you like more!

Be a little bit aloof and try not to pick your teams too soon as it can make things really awkward further down the line when you see people in the corridor who you were once best friends with and now never speak to!

One of the first guys I made friends with early on turned out to be fairly right wing, and I remember thinking "if you’re a UKIP supporter at the age of eighteen it’s a bit questionable. You already don’t like immigrants, really?" So yeah, don’t make panic friends.

What was it like being a student at King’s?

It was pretty good, I didn’t like the idea of going to a campus uni where everyone knows you all the time, at least in London you can escape and go and do your own thing.

I was in intercollegiate halls as well, so I had friends from lots of different universities – the people from LSE who had sold their soul, the people at SOAS who will protest anything to get out of their lectures, the whole gamut.

It was also great because it meant that I wasn’t afraid of living in London and quite early got used to the fact that ninety per-cent of people here are horrible to you.

Is there anything you would change about your time at university?

Ah, I don’t really like questions like this. I had a decent time, I found people to live with who could tolerate me reasonably…without being too deep, I don’t see much point talking about changing something that you can’t change. If I had to answer, probably go to the gym a bit more. Yeah, I wish I’d gone to the gym more.

And the classic UCL/KCL rivalry, was that something you bought into?

Na, I never really bought into that rivalry. I think it’s one of those things where they hate each other because they are the same.

I found there was much more of a KCL vs. GKT rivalry. I once did a stand up routine at Guy’s and I tried to make some jokes about our rivalry with UCL and they were like "yeah, we don’t hate them. We hate you."

I have nothing but pure antipathy for LSE though. I was playing football against them and scored (admittedly it was the 6th goal of a 6 – 0 win, but still). That night we had a Roman-themed social planned and I had my fancy dress with with me, and I’d planned a celebration where I would put my centurion’s mask on and wave the corner flag like a spear screaming "are you not entertained?!"

I nailed the celebration but after they match they took the mask and threw it in a hedge so I couldn’t get it back. In retrospect their behaviour seems quite fair actually. I was being a total prick but I’ll never forgive them.

Other than football, what societies did you get involved in at King’s?

I was a member of the Dead Parrot Society, which was a comedy society, but it wasn’t great when I was there. I wanted to make comedy with people but they just watched Monty Python DVDs really, which to be fair I should’ve ascertained from their name.

I also did some stuff with the King’s Players – I went to Edinburgh and did some very student-y student theatre there, I got to play Hamlet in the chapel, a Polish guy with bipolar disorder in some new writing…so it was varied.

I was also in a production of The Bacchae where I had to wear a nappy thing and walk round the chapel making strange noises. Despite my parents saying they enjoyed them I assume every single one of these plays was terrible.

Most important question – Waterfront or the Philosophy bar? (Rosenthal did his degree in Philosophy!)

Oh Waterfront, definitely. There was always a high danger of being talked to about philosophy in the Phil bar, and given that we were all philosophy students that was quite a reasonable thing for people to expect you to have an opinion about.

The problem is, I can’t really talk about it sober, let alone after three pints, so any time I was there I was constantly terrified that I would be asked a question that I couldn’t answer and be kicked off my course and out of the university.

Only philosophy faculty members and students were allowed in when I was at King’s, so there were lots of old men with big beards having very highbrow conversations which was very intimidating. The Waterfront was just generally Geography students asking me if I saw Didier Drogba’s goal at the weekend which was far easier to handle (yes I am that old).

Having said that, the worst thing that happened to me in the Waterfront was when I was bought a glass of wine by a War Studies rugby player who, after I’d drunk a few sips, proceeded to tell me he’d pissed in it. I had literally never met him before in my life and he gave me a drink of his own piss. But yeah, I’d take that over being grilled about Aristotelian Metaphysics any day.

ReFreshers Week presented by Strongbow launches on Monday 24th September at 10pm on MTV. To be in with a chance of having a favourite memory refreshed, head to Strongbow UK Facebook page and share a memory with #RefreshYourStatus