Josh Thomas doesn’t really have an agenda, although the 26-year-old Australian’s show Please Like Me takes “realizing he’s gay” and “moving back in with his mother after her suicide attempt” as a potentially provocative starting point. Please Like Me — which premieres Aug. 1 on Pivot, a newly launched channel targeting millennials — is in part a comedy about depression. Like the character he plays in the show, conveniently or confusingly also called Josh, Thomas sees depression as essentially mundane.
“If you live with someone that is depressed, the truth of it — it’s not that dramatic, it’s just a bit, kind of, ‘Here we go, this is what we’re doing today. This is sad. But we’re gonna get through it,’” Thomas told BuzzFeed. “I want to tell the story as authentically as I can,” he added, although he emphasized that he just writes about what he knows (“I’m just so comfortable talking about my private life: I just think because I’m not that clever”).
His goal for the show he started working on five years ago is this: “I want people to like it. Put that in the title.”
Although he writes and stars in the show, he said, “I didn’t direct it because I’m not, like, that good at things. I kind of made the show the same way you would let an 8-year-old bake a cake. Like you have adults around to supervise, make sure that I’m not, like, touching the oven. But the kid, he made the cake. Like, I made it. There were just a lot of other people around making sure that I did actually create something.”
Thomas started doing standup at 17, and he said he’s always drawn on his actual life, which back then, “was mostly just, like, anecdotes about trying to finger girls.” His parents, whose private lives he also airs in his act and in the show, are “not too worried about privacy, I guess. Like me.” He’s in Los Angeles for the U.S. premiere of Please Like Me; during the actual premiere, he will be appearing on a talk show, which is “not as exciting as getting full maggoted, you know what I mean?”
I did not.
“Is that an Australian thing to say?” he asked. “Gonna get full maggot, yeah.”
Spelled like the bug?
“It is, that’s what it is. Describing getting drunk.”
While in Los Angeles, he’s been haunted by giant images of his own face plastered on double-decker buses filled with tourists. In the second episode of the show, Josh describes his appearance as “a 50-year-old baby”; his face lends the lovable impression of a raw pancake.
“The whole filter of what [these tourists] see, everything they see in L.A., is via my disgusting face,” said the pale comedian. “Their window is this disgusting mole on my lip, and all the sights of L.A. they’re coming here to see — Hollywood, ooh, show business — is filtered through my disgusting face. Which I would be annoyed at, if I bought a ticket for that bus. I’d want to be on the 2 Guns one.”
In Thomas’ self-deprecation lies his charm: his gawky relatability. This shows in his Please Like Me character, who makes weird little jokes by his mother’s hospital bed after her suicide attempt, who never shares his feelings, and who, in coming out is initially less concerned with the implications of homosexuality and more concerned with how his mole affects making out.
“That’s one of the great things you can do in comedy, where you can kind of share experiences of things that are, like, a bit shit. Like farting is embarrassing. You can talk about farting. People can, like, share that experience. Or do, like, what we do in this show.”