Tom Rosenthal: Manhood | Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett
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Tom Rosenthal: Manhood

Note: This review is from 2019

Edinburgh Fringe review by Steve Bennett

Tom Rosenthal apologises if he’s misused people’s affection for the sitcoms he’s in to bait them into coming to what’s effectively a TED talk. And a TED talk about male circumcision at that.

Indeed, aside from a short – and very funny – preamble about his OCD being a genuine condition, not just a penchant for putting his books in alphabetical order, the full hour is devoted to the issue.

While female genital mutilation gets much attention, the male version is barely less barbaric, traumatic, psychologically damaging, dangerous and needless.

Rosenthal has personal experience and jokes that this whole Edinburgh run is an attempt to ‘avenge the theft of my foreskin’. Even though, despite the physical evidence, and the fact he stars in Friday Night Dinner, he is not Jewish.

On top of that, he’s done his research. He’s attended academic conferences; has an expert on FaceTime speed-dial; has acquired some textbook diagrams; and offers a fully-cited list of references for those who want them.

It’s a socially fascinating and important subject, if comedically quite restricting. For however you look at it, this is an hour of dick jokes.  For limited varation, some are based on his wild incredulity over the practice and its justifications – such as him screeching at religions for being ‘so obsessed with baby dicks’ – and others at his extreme preoccupation with the subject. But then ‘obsessive’ is in the name of the condition he has.

He’s frank about the effects circumcision had on him, especially as a body-conscious teenager, but the earnest material always sits beside more juvenile jokes.

Rosenthal has an engaging, energetic manner, and all is brought together by a theatrical ending that’s memorable, silly and ridiculously over-the-top. But none of this overcomes the tonal shifts between the uncomfortable, serious side of the show and the flippant.

Review date: 11 Aug 2019
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Pleasance Courtyard

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