COMEDIAN and actor Omid Djalili reckons his rowdy student days in Coleraine made him the man he is today.
Talking to Sunday Life, the irreverent 54-year-old Londoner is in stitches as he recalls things that would shock us now - like 'the Fenian Turk' nickname he was given by his team-mates, or narrowly avoiding being shot while minding his own business on Portrush beach.
Self-deprecation and poking fun at himself is all part of his routine, of course, and during the course of a lively discourse recently on Twitter, he joked he had "the touch of a landmine" during his days in the Irish League's lower tiers.
It prompted howls of laughter online, and was typical of the entertainer's risque humour, always teetering just this side of the offensive, a style he says he honed while studying English and theatre at Coleraine uni.
Indeed, it was in the Eglinton Hotel in neighbouring Portrush where he first plucked up the courage to do stand-up (below), rattling off jokes during a triumphant four-minute cameo on stage at his football team's end-of-season "turkey of the year awards".
"My team-mates were very funny people and I think the beginnings of me as a stand-up comedian was then," says Djalili, whose Hollywood credits include Gladiator, The Mummy and Bond outing The World Is Not Enough.
"You have to be around funny people and I have to say the people I hung around with, not just on the theatre course but also on the football pitch, they were funny people.
"I just remember laughing. All my time at university - I spent three years in Northern Ireland - and I just remember laughing. I can't repeat much of it, but terms of endearment to me, 'Awk wise up c**ty,' that was said to me nearly every day, and I just remember laughing."
All this despite the sectarian cauldron Northern Ireland was back in the Eighties.
"It was a dark time and I didn't fully get, I don't think anybody from London fully gets, the Troubles until I moved there," adds the award-winning comic.
"I feel very lucky that I was there and got my eyes opened, and I was lucky that I was with people who had a great sense of humour. For example, I didn't know about the sectarianism. I played for the university football team and when we went away, I always seemed to be sharing with Seamus Gibson.
"And I kept saying, 'Seamus, you are the goalkeeper and I don't talk to you that much, why do we always share a room when we go away?'
"He said, 'Oh come on Omid, put two and two together (Omid affects a convincing Northern Ireland accent here).'
"He said, 'I'm a Catholic and you're an Arab,' so they were putting all the ethnics together.
"Everyone was Protestant except for me and Seamus and even then we were being segregated.
"So I didn't really understand it at first, or why my nickname was the 'Fenian Turk'."
While it's in his nature to make light of it, bigotry and racism, the ugly sisters of days gone by, were never far from the surface.
"It was pretty bad," he admits. "We had one black player on our team, a guy of Nigerian background, and him and me, you could tell with the tackles that went flying in.
"They (opposition teams) were definitely harder on us, and Niji Adesina was big, and he was a Christian as well so he was always taught to turn the other cheek.
"He never responded and I never responded. We both made a pact never to respond and we were called all kinds of names.
"But the great thing was they all shook hands with me after and they would say, 'Well played big man, you were great,' so I never felt it was nasty the racism.
"That's one good thing I'll say about it. There is sectarianism and there was some racism as well but the fact that we all shook hands afterwards and often had a drink afterwards, it was always quickly forgotten and never taken seriously."
That said, one encounter in particular was too close for comfort.
"I remember being shot at by these boys," he laughs.
"I was throwing stones at the sea at Portrush and they shouted, 'Ah you w****r ye,' so I went over, I thought they were two students and I said, 'Did you call me something?'
"So one of them said, 'Here, do you want your kneecaps blown off,' and I thought, yeah right, I'm the one with the stones.
"Then the other one said, 'Jeez boy, you better run away, he's serious,' and he came back with a rifle and I was running and he took two shots at me."
When he retells the story on stage, Omid substitutes the rifle for an air-gun to make it more believable, but he's adamant it was the lethal type.
His professor's nonchalant reply, meanwhile, highlights how far Djalili's student experience was to the hyper-sensitive cancel culture of today.
"I'm not joking, I came into university on the Monday and I'll never forget, I told my professor," adds Djalili. "And he just said, 'Omid, Omid, all I can say is you got away with it so say nothing because if you report this, they'll be after you, just be thankful you're alive'.
"Now we have #MeToo and if someone even breathes on you, you can report them but back then you can be shot at and you are encouraged not to report it."
Back then, for better or for worse, it was sink or swim; you had to be thick-skinned, and even more so if you came from an ethnic background.
Indeed for Djalili, he finds the best art and comedy are often born in adversity.
"Most cultures that have suffered are like that, they produce great stuff," he says.
"I know coming from an Iranian background, with Iranian cinema, where you get restrictions you get great cinema.
"Around the Noughties, in 2005-6, Iranian films were cleaning up at the Berlin Film Festival, Cannes... because you find other ways to be creative.
"I remember coming back from being in the Republic and we got stopped (by the security forces) and they asked, 'Where have you been?'
"'We've been in Derry,' said one of the guys.
"'Do you mean Londonderry?' asked one of them in an English accent.
"'No, I mean Derry.'
"'You better say Londonderry, or I won't let you past, so where have you been?'
"So look, you take things seriously too because we are talking about people dying, but actually, there was always this dark sense of humour about the Troubles which really kept us going."
Djalili was in Northern Ireland earlier this month shooting Celebrity Mastermind in Belfast, a city he's got to know well with his daughter settled in the Windsor area.
"Northern Ireland has changed," he says. "The place has physically changed and now some parts of Belfast really look like a European city, like a Florence, the facelift it has had, it's really unrecognisable. So fair play to you guys."
Omid will be hosting a new quiz show every weekday on ITV, Winning Combination, which launches next month, while dates for his tour next year will be announced soon.