PROFILE Josh Thomas
The comedian admits any show he made was going to be awkward because he’s an awkward guy, writes Sheryl-lee Kerr, but it’s not as awkward as it could have been if he’d had to pretend to like kissing girls.
PLEASE LIKE ME Thursday, 9.30pm, ABC2
COMEDIAN Josh Thomas is in a bit of a lather. He seems to be flailing somewhere between mild fretting and having a fullscale meltdown over his acting debut on Please Like Me, the comedy TV series he wrote and co-produced.
Adding to the anxiety is that he has never had an acting lesson in his life. Well, except maybe a day’s worth of tips from the show’s director which, he says, counts. More on that later.
Please Like Me is a fictionalised version of Thomas’ own life and that of friends, family and lovers, in the vein of Seinfeld. It is also wry, original and sublimely awkward. Suggest that critique to Thomas and he nervously picks over it.
‘‘Very few people have seen the show at the moment and I am just so, so, so needy for positive feedback,’’ he begins.
‘‘Original is good, right? I tried very hard to make it original. But sometimes original is a bad thing, like licking Nutella off a kitten is original but that doesn’t mean it’s a good idea.
‘‘Sublime is a good word. That’s a positive word, I’ll focus on that. A show made by me was always going to be awkward. I’m a very awkward guy. So yes, I think that is what I’m going for.
‘‘I wanted the show to feel really honest. For it to feel quite brutal but then quite sweet, sort of depressing but also heart-warming. Everyone is completely ill-equipped but trying their best to keep everyone happy. I think all these things are good ingredients for comedy.’’
Shot in Melbourne, the first episode begins with his girlfriend dumping him after deciding he’s gay. Then a hunky bloke takes a shine to him. His depressed mother (Debra Lawrance) attempts suicide, forcing him to move back in with her, and his divorced father (David Roberts) is in a guilty mess over it.
The show’s top cast has given Thomas a new appreciation for actors.
‘‘I really didn’t appreciate actors before I made this,’’ he says.
‘‘I thought they were just dopes with nice teeth who took credit for what smarter people write but the cast on this show changed my mind. They were skilled, super talented and super impressive. I’m really grateful they weren’t big idiots.
‘‘My acting was the big wildcard. No one knew if I could do it. I had never been on a drama set in my life. I didn’t have to audition because I’m one of the people in charge.
‘‘We figured I was just acting as me, which I should be able to do.
‘‘I had a day set aside with (director) Matt Saville to try and get him to give me acting tips. He said, ‘Listen to what people say and then react the way you think you would if someone said that to you’. It’s the best acting advice I’ve ever heard. I feel bad for all those chumps that spent three years at university!’’ So how does he reckon he went? ‘‘I think sometimes I was really good. I surprised myself,’’ he decides. ‘‘Sometimes I am just dreadful.’’
‘‘We figured I was just acting as me, which I should be
able to do’’
He says the show changed several times over the four years of trying to sell it to the ABC. ‘‘When we first pitched it I was straight, so the main character was straight. But then I wasn’t and we figured people would feel awkward watching me pretend to like kissing girls so the love interest became a boy,’’ he says.
On that topic, the show includes at least one hot and heavy, supremely awkward make-out session with his character’s nearnaked new boyfriend, Geoffrey (Wade Briggs). One wonders what his family made of Thomas’ first TV (almost) sex scene?
‘‘My mum and dad and sister have watched it,’’ he says. ‘‘They all turned away during the make-out scenes. My dad got a bit freaked out by it. He’s worried about how the nation will handle it. I have no idea what my grandma will think. She is pretty cool. She’ll probably ask me to put her in touch with Wade.’’
When not penning his own TV show, Thomas’ life is packed. He has a stand-up tour coming up, a boyfriend, is a hit on Facebook and Twitter and has overseas travel plans to contemplate.
‘‘I am so content at the moment, it’s a real source of concern,’’ he deadpans.
When not fretting about his show or disturbingly happy life, the keen cook can often be found in the kitchen.