Josh Thomas is a fairly atypical 25-year-old – after eight years of touring as a stand-up comic and regular stints on television, his resume is already impressively long. After four years of production, though, the debut episode of his new show Please Like Me is due to screen at the end of February, and Thomas is looking at a brighter spotlight than ever. Speaking to the Star Observer, the boy comedian revealed his nerves about the reaction he was anticipating.
“Most people are used to watching me having chocolate sauce poured on my head by Shaun Micallef, so I don’t know how people are going to take this new stuff. It’s on the ABC so it’s your money. I didn’t care on Channel 10 because I was wasting money from Coles or Mitsubishi or wherever, but on the ABC you don’t fuck around with people’s money,” he said.
Thomas is no stranger to sharing his more candid moments with an audience, but Please Like Me, which he wrote as well as starred in, takes his penchant for awkwardness to new levels. He particularly relished the discomfort some of the show’s more raunchy scenes have inspired in reviewers.
“It gets pretty gay pretty quickly. I love that TV journalists, a lot of whom are a fair bit older than me, are obliged to sit down and watch me making out with a pretty-much naked man for five straight minutes. There’ve been some uncomfortable silences in interviews,” he said.
Starring as a semi-fictional 21-year-old version of himself dealing with sexuality, his parents’ divorce and the clumsy relationship dramas of his friends, Thomas has ample material to work with. While he’s careful to point out that not every event in the show has a real-life equivalent, a few of the more memorable moments are too specific to have been dreamed up.
“There’s a scene where I’m making out with a boy and I bleed into his mouth after cutting myself shaving. At last count that’s happened to me three times in real life. Don’t tell your readers that – I might want to have sex with some of them and I don’t want them knowing I used to bleed into lovers’ mouths.”
While the show pulls no punches in its gay scenes, Thomas was adamant that the show not be typecast because he is gay.
“I didn’t want to do a coming-out story. I thought that would be such a drag, but we had to do it at least a little bit. We got it out of the way very quickly in the first few episodes.”
Please Like Me’s Josh has more difficulty with the physical challenges of being a young gay man than any crisis of identity – a few minutes after his first boyfriend tells him, in a fit of passion, that he loves him, Josh whispers hesitantly back, “I don’t want anything in my bum”. According to Thomas it’s one of the many moments in the show where art imitates life.
“Realising that I had to put penises in me was fucking terrifying. Society talks about lots of things gay kids have to struggle with, but I think they’re mainly concerned that gay sex is just bad logistics. Straight people don’t consider that young gay guys are terrified of putting penises inside them.”
Not that Thomas faces no challenges being a gay public figure – being recognised by strangers can have its own complications.
“A few weeks ago a couple of guys in a pub spat on me and called me a faggot. I put their pictures up on Facebook, because I’m very powerful on the internet if nowhere else, and it went off. I get called a faggot less than you would think, but I always ignore it and it’s humiliating, so I figured I’d retaliate for once.”
Jumping on homophobia has taken Thomas to some strange places, such as striking up an unlikely acquaintanceship with Megan Phelps-Roper, a member of the infamous Westboro Baptist Church. Phelps-Roper left the church, known for picketing soldier’s funerals with signs displaying slogans like ‘God Hates Fags,’ earlier this month after a lifetime of adherence.
“I used to insult them once a day on Twitter just for fun, and we’d chat sometimes. I felt bad for her because she grew up in a cult and she didn’t know anything else. I thought she was incredibly brave leaving. If she comes to Melbourne I’ve promised to take her to see the penguins.”
Despite his talent for riling homophobes on social media, Thomas doesn’t enjoy confrontation – a fact that the show’s title reflects.
“It has nothing to do with the show itself – I just figure asking people straight out to like it will endear them to me. That’s the dream, anyway.”
INFO: Please Like Me airs Thursday nights at 9.30pm on ABC2. Josh Thomas will appear at the Brisbane Powerhouse as part of the Brisbane Comedy Festival from March 14-17 • www.briscomfest.com
Check out the trailer for Thomas’s Please Like Me below: