Fresh Meat: Joe Thomas – I was quite similar to Kingsley at university

"At Cambridge I met oddballs every day, like the guy who turned up to a David Starkey lecture dressed in Elizabethan court costume"

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Who do you play?
A character called Kingsley: a serious young man who really, really likes this girl called Josie.

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What were you like as a fresher?
I was quite similar to Kingsley. I thought it was a cool thing to be good at your work and I really wanted to succeed.

Did you work hard?
I never really recovered from the fact that the lecturers weren’t paid to be nice to me. Or that the carrot-and-stick thing that happened at school no longer occurred. If you do quite well, nobody’s that bothered; and if you really f**k up, nobody’s that bothered. It has to be from you and I was easily distracted.

What proved so distracting?
The place. I read History at Cambridge and there were so many stories of people who hadn’t even bothered to graduate because they’d left to do something more exciting. “What am I meant to be doing?” I’d think. “Am I meant to be doing my work or am I meant to be artistically failing my exams but writing sublime poetry in the process?” Or getting drunk, which is what I did quite a lot.

Did you come across any oddballs?
Every day! Like the guy who turned up to a David Starkey lecture dressed in Elizabethan court costume. I hoped he was fulfilling some bet that he’d lost. 

Were you a house-trained student?
Cambridge students are quite cosseted. You didn’t really have to cook or clean or negotiate with the landlord. So the grotty student house that we have in Fresh Meat I never really lived in until I moved to London with friends after university. That was when I had to wrestle with life’s important questions: who’s going to do the washing up? Who’s going to empty the bin? Who’s going to buy toilet paper? The answer to all of those was me.

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What’s your advice for this year’s freshers?
Be yourself even if you’re not that interesting. I think I was so desperate to be different that it stopped me from doing things I’d have enjoyed.