Budding comic John Tothill quit his teaching job in an East End primary school to take his first stand up show to the Edinburgh Fringe.

To bankroll the costly trip north, he enrolled in a clinical trial, which involved catching malaria, then being cured of it.

And the gamble paid off when The Last Living Libertine, an hour-long faux history lecture performed by his 'bon vivant' alter ego, landed well with critics.

A string of four and five star reviews hailed an assured debut from a fully formed comedy persona, with The Guardian calling the 'blithely eccentric hour about pleasure and puritanism' 'a treat,' and Chortle saying he was 'easily among the most exciting Fringe debutants of this year'.

Now teetering on the brink of a comedy career, the Hampstead resident says: "Edinburgh was a bit too much at the time, performing every day for 30 days. It's only in the last two weeks I have reintrepreted it as a fun experience.Ham & High: John Tothill lives in a Hampstead flat share and quit his job as an East End primary school teacher to become a stand up comicJohn Tothill lives in a Hampstead flat share and quit his job as an East End primary school teacher to become a stand up comic (Image: Rebecca Need-Menear)

"The cost is bonkers, it's the biggest financial risk I have ever taken..well the only financial risk.. but the clinical trial funded the run, and I am glad the show went well. It can be a pretty solitary experience doing stand up, so it was nice to meet other people who are doing it - plus I am still learning about it."

Did he read the reviews? "Oh yeah, I read all of them, I was outrageously delighted at the one that said I was 'as camp as a boutique yurt,' I would have read them even if they had been cruel, because I have an addictive personality, but I was flattered and glad that the show was so well understood.

"It's not a show that has mainstream appeal - a big old history lecture on the Reformation that derails it - but the reviewers and audiences leaned into it."

He describes his on stage persona as "tipsy, sexually omnivorous, and a wannabe libertine" in the English tradition of restoration figures like the 17th Century Earl of Rochester, who loathed puritanism and loved pleasure, but was also "quite spiritual and religious."

"He's a guy who is articulate enough to win a 10 minute argument but would lose an hour long one because, scratch the surface and he knows very little."

While the stage persona is flirty and lauds pleasure, sex and drugs, in real life Tothill is "really geeky and quite shy about everything."

"Stand up is a unique beast in that you are inhabiting an exaggerated version of yourself, some comics are closer to their own persona than others. I have the pretentious habit of referring to him in the third person, but that's the way I think about it."

It's a far cry from the Bethnal Green primary where he worked after taking a masters in the history of political and intellectual thought: "I was teaching during Lockdown, so everything was crazy," he says.

These days he tutors on the side to make the rent on a Hampstead flat share.

"There are five of us in quite a small space, we all work in the arts and are slighthly obsessed with Hampstead as literary fetish object, we go drinking in the same pub as George Orwell."

On Saturday night he playes a local gig at HowTheLightGetsIn festival of philosophy on Hampstead Heath.

"My show takes aim at lofty intellectuals, so let's see how self aware they are."