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Mario Rosenstock on the Leaving Cert: ‘It was smack bang in the middle of Euro ‘88. Naturally, the weather was amazing’

Gift Grub creator wanted to go to Trinity College Dublin to join its amateur theatre society

Mario Rosenstock. 'Answer every question, because they give you lots of marks for just attempting to answer a question'

Actor and impressionist Mario Rosenstock sat the Leaving Cert at Ashton School in Cork in 1988

What school did you attend and what year did you do the Leaving Cert?

I did the Leaving Cert in 1988. I was in Ashton, in Cork. It was a boarding school.

What is your most vivid Leaving Cert memory?


It was smack bang in the middle of Euro ‘88, when Ireland qualified for their first major tournament ever. And also, of course, naturally the weather was absolutely amazing. And, so, the two greatest things you can imagine in Irish life: Ireland qualifying for a major tournament, the sun splitting the stones and I’m in doing soiscéal Peig.

Who was your most influential teacher and why?

English teacher Stephen Daunt – he got me interested in acting. It was totally a Robin Williams in Dead Poets Society scenario. We had done Death of a Salesman by Arthur Miller and I ended up playing Willy Loman, the 65-year-old salesman, in the school production. It propelled me to being an actor. After doing that play I knew that I wanted to go to Trinity, because it had a great amateur dramatic society, Trinity Players.

What was your most difficult subject?

Mathematics. In my first two years in school I fell behind badly because I was a bit truant and I didn’t attend a lot of classes. I found that once you fall behind in maths there’s no catching up.

I would like to think that I’m actually quite good at maths, but it’s immaterial because it didn’t make a difference. I was so far behind that you’re looking at things you just don’t understand.

And your favourite?

I loved history and English and I still love history to this day. Half the books on my bookshelf are to do with history – Irish history, world history. We had a very good history teacher and a very good English teacher. And of course, that is the key.

Can you recall what grades or points you received?

I think in old money I got 24 points. I think I got either As or Bs in history and English. I might have got an A in history.

How important were the results for you?

The results were important in the sense that I wanted to go to Trinity, and my folks wanted me to get a good grounding in a good degree. But really all I wanted to go to Trinity for was for Trinity Players.

What did you do after the secondary school?

I ended up doing business and economics, BESS, in Trinity. It was a brilliant course because there are so many modules you can do. I did Russian society and politics which was amazing at the time because it was early 1990s and Russia was collapsing. Sociology was another subject I was really interested in. A lot of the sociology modules still stay with me. We also did Irish politics with Basil Chubb, a doyen of Irish political professors.

What would you change about the Leaving Cert?

Pretty much everything. It’s very crude. It relies entirely on memory and it doesn’t hone analytical skills very well. You go from the Leaving Cert into college and they’re immediately expecting you to analyse things, and you’ve had absolutely no experience at analysing anything.

What advice would you give to your Leaving Cert self?

Answer every question, because they give you lots of marks for just attempting to answer a question. Complete the paper. Everything. And spend longer than normal reading the question. In other words, really analyse the question.

-In conversation with Jen Hogan

Mario Rosenstock is bringing his show, Gift Grub, to the 3Arena on March 28th, 2025