‘Whenever you have sex, it’s on your mind’: Tom Rosenthal on turning circumcision into comedy

The procedure left the comedian with sexual anxiety – and a tell-all show at the Edinburgh festival

Journalistic etiquette decrees that any delicate questions are usually saved until near the end of an interview. That doesn’t apply, however, when you are talking to a man who has written a standup show about his penis – or, rather, the piece of it that was stolen from him as a baby. Tom Rosenthal, the 31-year-old star of the sitcoms Friday Night Dinner (about the embarrassments of a Jewish family) and Plebs (anachronisms and dick jokes in ancient Rome), meets me at his agent’s office and cuts to the chase. “Ever since I became aware of what had happened to me, I’ve never felt so sure that something is wrong.” The earnest tone signals that any jokes on the subject will be confined to the stage. “I just don’t think it’s very funny.”

Fortunately, the show is. Manhood traces Rosenthal’s gradual realisation that he didn’t want to belong to a club that would have a member like his as a member. First, there was the “little sleeve” he noticed on a classmate’s penis. Then came the terrifying circumcision video shown at his school when he was 12, which led to a confrontation at home. “I had a shouting match with my mother. She took me to a doctor who basically invalidated all my feelings. The truth is that my parents were put in charge of my welfare and they did something to me that can never be remedied.”

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‘Whenever you have sex, it’s on your mind’: Tom Rosenthal on turning circumcision into comedy