Metro Weekly

Josh Thomas Only Tells the Truth… Mostly

Josh Thomas is back on the stand-up road with "Let's Tidy Up," a show that finds him putting things back in order post-pandemic.

Josh Thomas -- Photo: Nicole Reed
Josh Thomas – Photo: Nicole Reed

Here’s something you probably don’t know about Josh Thomas: He auditioned for the role of Cousin Greg on Succession.

“It’s the only real audition I’ve ever done,” says the Australian comedian. “I think maybe they weren’t sure if the family might be not American.”

He didn’t get the role and, as he now puts it, “I’m really glad that I wasn’t on that show. It was a really good show. Glad that I just got to watch it.”

Acting isn’t something Thomas — the creator of two profoundly memorable TV shows, Please Like Me and Everything’s Gonna Be Okay — counts among his strong suits.

“I’m not a good actor,” he admits over the course of a freewheeling, seventy-minute conversation on Zoom on Thanksgiving afternoon. “I’ve had two auditions in my life. One was to play a penguin in a short film when I was 19 [and the other was for Succession]. I always say no to auditions because I just act like me.”

This is the second time I’ve spoken at length with the 36-year-old Thomas. The first time occurred just before the COVID pandemic hit in 2020. In conversation, Thomas is relaxed and open, answering even the most personal questions with startling honesty and a trademark sense of mild bemusement.

It’s not dissimilar to his “Ask Me Anything” Instagram sessions during the pandemic, which more often than not, found Thomas staring directly into his phone’s camera and offering up a deftly timed “Your mum” to many fan questions.

“I do not know how to lie,” he says. “I learned how to pretend to like friends’ haircuts when I was maybe 28. I learned that it was actually better to just go, ‘Oh, it’s good,’ than to tell them the truth about it. I don’t think I lied until then.”

Josh Thomas -- Photo: Nicole Reed
Josh Thomas – Photo: Nicole Reed

Thomas has been an out gay man for much of his career, which is rooted in stand-up comedy in Australia. A few years ago, while working on his brilliant Freeform television series, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, which centers around a gay man raising his two half-sisters, one of whom is on the autism spectrum, Thomas discovered that he in fact was autistic.

The official diagnosis explained a lot about his legacy behaviors, he acknowledges — things like making eye contact and trouble instinctively reading facial expressions.

His shows — both of which are hilarious and heartbreaking — delve into heady territory for sitcoms. Please Like Me, which was semi-autobiographical, dealt with the stressful ripple effects of a failed suicide attempt, in addition to depression and mental health, while Everything’s Gonna Be Okay magnificently captured the relationship between two autistic teenage girls with a sincerity and elation rarely found on television.

He’s currently working on creating a new series, awaiting the green light from a major streaming service. He can’t talk about it, though, and adds with a laugh, “I also don’t want to.”

In the meantime, Thomas is on a mini-tour of the U.S. and Canada with his new evening of stand-up, Let’s Tidy Up, which arrives at Washington, D.C.’s Sixth & I Historic Synagogue next Thursday, Dec. 7. Co-written with noted playwright Lally Katz, the 70-minute show has been a welcome release for Thomas, allowing him to reconnect with fans after years of pandemic isolation.

“It does feel like I’m a traveling salesman trudging around with my suitcases,” he says of the tour. “It’s like, ‘Does anyone want to see my wares?’ And I don’t like that. But [the tour’s] been really nice, actually. I like being busy. And I’ve only had to catch one plane. Otherwise, it’s been the train and I drove. It’s been like an adventure. But a weird, quiet, lonely adventure. And then you’re all of a sudden standing up in front of six hundred people.”

Josh Thomas -- Photo: Nicole Reed
Josh Thomas – Photo: Nicole Reed

METRO WEEKLY: Let’s start with Let’s Tidy Up. What was the impetus for creating it and returning to your stand-up roots?

JOSH THOMAS: I only do stand-up now. I used to do those club shows where you’d get up with all those boys, usually, in pubs and stuff. I don’t do that anymore. Every couple of years I do a show. It’s in a theater, but it’s stand-up. And I co-wrote it with Lally Katz, who’s a really good playwright. I never want to write alone because I’m trying to live a nice life. I’ve never really written anything alone. And Lally is one of Australia’s best playwrights. It’s incredible that she would do this with me. But most stand-ups, they’re not writing their whole show alone. They just don’t tell anybody.

But I don’t mind people knowing that there are other people working on the show. I feel like there’s this stand-up bravado thing. I guess because it’s so personal, you want everyone to know that it’s so personal and it’s come from you. So people don’t want them to think that there’s anybody else working on the show. But I don’t have that bravado. I’m happy to credit Lally, of course, because she’s really good. She did a lot of work.

MW: Are you saying that in most cases when we go see a stand-up comedian, they haven’t written all the material themselves?

JOSH: Look, I’m sure that a lot do. A lot of big comedians have [writer’s] rooms when they go to do a tour, especially if they’re really busy. They’ll have a room to put their show together. And some people will send it out for punch-ups and stuff. Or they’ll have a director.

MW: Makes perfectly good sense.

JOSH: There’s nothing else where you would just have one person come up with it and go and do it. It’s good to have somebody. Most people will at least bounce it off somebody. Or, yeah, there’s a lot of guys — Jerry Seinfeld doesn’t have anybody really writing with him. But he loves going out to the comedy clubs and workshopping and figuring out his bit. He has that personality. So there are comedians that are like that, who will do that. But I don’t want to do any shows with other comedians [in comedy clubs] anymore. I don’t ever want to make eye contact with a comedian as they walk off stage again.

Josh Thomas -- Photo: Nicole Reed
Josh Thomas – Photo: Nicole Reed

MW: Why is that?

JOSH: It’s just such a vulnerable moment. I don’t want to be involved in that. It’s just private.

MW: Did you not enjoy doing the clubs back in your early days?

JOSH: I loved doing them. I was obsessed with doing them. I started when I was 17. I used to do four or five gigs a week. I was absolutely obsessed with stand-up from 17 until probably 23. I would do four gigs a week, 200 gigs a year. So I was really obsessed.

But then I stopped being interested and I quit. I quit doing stand-up — but quietly, not like Hannah Gadsby. She quit very loudly and then started doing a lot more stand-up. I quit quietly for nine years before my last tour. And then that last tour was really small because, honestly, I wasn’t that sure.

But now I really like it again.

The thing that used to bother me about it is that in Australia you have to do a new show every year. If you’re a comedian, you do a new show with the Melbourne Comedy Festival every year. And that’s how I earn money. But sometimes I would not really have anything to say and that I found really brutal. And also you do a lot of these TV shows where you sit on panels and you’d have to talk about the news of the week.

And there were just a lot of times in that early 10 years in my career where I was like, “I have nothing to say about this.” I don’t really care about Justin Bieber’s leopard print Audi. These days, I only do stuff when I feel like I have something to say. Which maybe is a self-important thing to say about myself. But I just don’t want to be out there talking all the time for no reason.

MW: I think that’s refreshingly honest. Actually, I’ve always wondered about those shows. Do they feed you lines or do you have to come off the top of your head with those things?

JOSH: America doesn’t really have them as much as Australia. And they’re big in Britain. They have Would You Lie to Me and Never Mind the Buzzcocks. We have lots of shows like that in Australia and that’s what I used to do all the time. I was doing one of those a week.

No, they don’t feed you lines. Some shows you know what they’re going to talk about in advance and you work out what you’re going to say. I think occasionally they’ll have other writers with jokes that you can choose from. But the show that I did for ages, for years, was called Talkin’ ‘Bout Your Generation where they told us nothing. They kept it like a secret and that was all a surprise what was happening. And that was a wacky show. Once we poured sour cream on my grandma’s head. You can watch it on YouTube if you want. We poured sour cream on my grandma’s head when I was 20.

MW: How did she take it?

JOSH: She loved it. She was great. She insisted on it. We didn’t want to do it, to be honest.

MW: Very sporting grandma. So what can you tell me about Let’s Tidy Up without spoiling it? What are you tidying up?

JOSH: It’s about me trying to tidy up, quite literally. It’s just not something I’ve ever been able to do. You probably go through life knowing how to tidy up. That’s an important core skill, I guess. And I’ve never been able to do it, not for a minute. I was diagnosed with autism two years ago — two years ago, three years ago? My timelines are not reliable. And eight years diagnosed with ADHD. When I got diagnosed with ADHD, the psychiatrist accidentally described it as incurable, which is such a funny — you don’t need to say that about my personality! I don’t think I had a very good psychiatrist.

MW: Wait, your psychiatrist said you had an incurable personality?

JOSH: Well, she said I had ADHD and then she described ADHD as incurable. And she winced after she said it. She absolutely wasn’t meant to say it, but it’s true. She’s not wrong. There’s no cure for autism or ADHD or anybody’s personality at all, really. There’s no cure for your personality, Randy. You’re stuck with it and I’m stuck with it. And that’s what this show’s about.

It’s also about me moving to L.A. And so I moved to L.A. when I was 30 and just had to start my life again. I didn’t really have friends there. Well, I had a couple — Lally Katz, actually, was one of my friends there. But I had to figure everything out in this new country alone. So it’s about that.

MW: You weren’t long in L.A. when COVID hit. And on social media, you allowed your frustration with COVID to pour out, which was really great to watch for those of us going through the same things.

JOSH: Thanks, I’m glad you liked it. I was just bored. I wanted something to do. So I started posting on Instagram. I’ve been so allergic to these because I used to do Twitter. But that was back in the day when Twitter was all we had. People would just write words. And when I was young, when I was a child, I was big on Twitter. And then Twitter died. Twitter turned really mean and such an awful place to be. Recently more so, but even a decade ago. It switched from when it first started.

So I’ve been a bit dubious about putting any effort into Instagram or now TikTok because I just hated that experience with Twitter. It started fun and then you build this thing and then it gets really gross. But in COVID I started posting because I was bored out of my mind. It’s nice for you to say that I opened up about what I was going through. But honestly, the truth is what else do you talk about when there’s nothing else happening in the house?

I felt like we were all just hanging out on this thing. I needed company and there were people watching that needed company and that was nice. It was nice to get to just do something as well. The fun thing about socials is you don’t have to run it by anybody — and that is very different from making TV. I can’t really remember what we did on there. I can’t really remember. Do you remember?

MW: Yeah, I remember quite a bit. The things that I really enjoyed were when you just have people ask you questions and you would just go one after the other and answer them off the top of your head. And it was really genuinely funny as hell to watch those. And very entertaining but also illuminating. For those of us who are fans of you, it was really nice and comfortable and intimate in a way that allowed us to get to know you. But also not to lose you because shows weren’t being produced. So it was a great way for us to stay connected to Josh Thomas.

JOSH: That’s nice. I think it was nice for me too because it was just mucking around. When you’re making a TV show over at Disney, as nice as they are, and much as I like those people, and as easy as they try to make the process, you don’t get to just muck around.

You have to go to a warehouse in the middle of a suburb and they point these cameras. And there’s gaffer tape and screws and there’s a lot of process and everything. So I did find it really fun when I changed my attitude towards social [media]. The idea that it’s just silly and it can just be fun — that was better. But obviously, I’m so scared of social media as well. Everyone’s just so scared of it. Just so worried you’re going to say the wrong sentence and ruin everyone’s week. When I say everyone, I mean the people who manage my week — the publicist, the managers. Just doing one bad post, getting something wrong. So it’s kind of scary.

Josh Thomas -- Photo: Nicole Reed
Josh Thomas – Photo: Nicole Reed

MW: Are you still active on social? I’ve kind of dropped off Instagram and don’t use TikTok.

JOSH: Yeah, I’m doing a lot of it because I’m on tour. But that’s a different energy, isn’t it? I did an AMA this week when I was catching the train. When I was supposed to be talking to you, but the wi-fi on the Amtrak broke. I’ve been trying to catch trains everywhere as much as I can because I really like trains. I just really like them.

MW: Is this fun for you, to do so much traveling around?

JOSH: I’ve never done this. What I’m doing right now, I’ve never done. My tours are usually a lot more gentle. In Australia, you either do the weekend or you do a sit down, three-week run. I’m on tour in Australia until May. I’m in my house for two days between now and May. At the moment, I’m on a ten-day run. Ten shows in ten days in nine cities. Like, that’s craziness. And I don’t have a tour producer because I don’t know why. I decided not to. So yeah, that’s craziness.

MW: How are the shows going?

JOSH: The shows have been really good. They’ve been too long. That’s what I got to fix today because I got two shows tonight. But they’ve been good. People have started doing standing ovations at the end, and that didn’t happen last time I toured America. They don’t do that in Australia. Not for anything. Not for anything.

And I don’t think the show’s better. I think it’s just because autistic now. I think they’re patronizing me. I don’t mind, I suppose.

MW: You’re famous, Josh. These people know your work. They’ve come to see you.

JOSH: So they stand up in the end? It’s very foreign to me. American hecklers are so funny to me. They’re so nice. I did a show in Dallas for an hour and 54 minutes, which is so disgusting and it’s not who I am. It’s not in my soul to stay on stage for too long. I definitely don’t want to be sitting in front of an audience that needs to pee. Especially my audience. They’ve all got ADHD or autism. They can’t sit there for an hour and 54 minutes. But they say such supportive things.

I’m used to in Australia, if someone heckles you, they want to go to war a little bit. So you get a little bit into combat mode and you have to manage it as well. But in Dallas, like one person yelled out affirmations. Just nice things. Little compliments along the way. And then I was thinking about other American stand-ups I’ve seen. I’m like, “Oh yeah.” If you mention a town that somebody is from, they’ll whoop the town. But I’m not meant to stomp every time someone does that. And I’m meant to keep going, so I’m not used to that. I’m used to every time someone talks, it being a heckle.

MW: If the show is written for the most part and you’re following a structure, how is it expanding to two hours?

JOSH: Because I’m talking to them. Because they would keep talking to me. They just kept saying little statements and then I’d want to know what they were talking about. And it is stand-up. I definitely don’t want you to think that this is one of those shows where the lights come up, and I’m sitting in the chair, and I’m like, “Hello, I didn’t see you there.” And then do the script. It’s stand-up comedy. If somebody talks then I’ll talk to them. And it’s structured, but I’ll talk about the day if I want to. Or I’ll talk about the town I’m in. Or sometimes I’ll drop some bits and other stuff.

Josh Thomas -- Photo: Nicole Reed
Josh Thomas – Photo: Nicole Reed

MW: Well, I think it’s great you’re getting standing ovations. Australian audiences should stand up for you as well.

JOSH: Never. They just would never. And they shouldn’t stand up. No one needs to stand up. They paid their money, they got the babysitter, they had to find a place to park. Sit down. That’s fine.

MW: I want to turn to your most recent series, Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. Two seasons are on Freeform, and you shot the second season during COVID. Was it more difficult than anything you’ve done in terms of making television?

JOSH: It wasn’t good at all. You’re in the pandemic, you’re scared. I’m the showrunner, which means you are in charge of the show. Usually, that’s just the creative decisions, and hiring, very occasionally firing. But I had this dual sense of really making sure that we were doing everything properly so people didn’t get sick, which everybody was concerned about — and everybody on our set was on board with.

Other shows had issues where there weren’t people buying into COVID, right? You had people on set who didn’t believe in COVID, so they’re having a really hard time. Everybody on our set really did. And all our safety people in our studio, Avalon, were incredible and invested a lot into making sure that they kept everyone safe.

But there are also decisions about protocols that would come to me. How often are we testing? People would ask questions about it. And the other thing was managing the morale of a team — I’ve never really had to think about that. But those two things became way more important than the show. You’re used to being on set being like, “No, we have to get the shot. We have to get this moment. You have to get this.” But that was the third priority, absolutely, on that set. The first was “Don’t die.” The second was “Make everyone feel good and safe.” And we did. No one got sick from somebody else on set during the show. We were filming at the peak.

We had 23 people on our set get COVID. But not from each other, never from each other. From their lives. And they didn’t pass it on. It was really real. And everyone was happy to be there as well because they hadn’t been working. So they’d all been locked in their house. So we were lucky that we had a crew and that was really nice. That was the nice vibe of it — people were excited to be filmmaking again.

The other thing was making sure that set is fun and that everybody’s having a good time. And that everybody’s being looked after and feels good and happy to be at work. It’s so important. When you’re the leader in a time like that, you have to go on set in a good mood all the time. If I’m in a bad mood or if I look worried or scared, then that’s very contagious. Which is a weird choice of word to use about a pandemic. So, for me, it was really hard. I learned a lot. I think I can barely remember what the show is. I can barely remember most of COVID. I’ve just blocked it all out. I think if I watched season two of Everything’s Going to Be Okay, I’d be absolutely shocked. I’d be really surprised.

MW: You’re also dealing with cast members who are neurodivergent in various degrees as well. So you have to create a safe space for that.

JOSH: Look, the big thing about Everything’s Gonna Be Okay is we’re the first with an autistic actor in a lead role. But one thing I’ll say about that is there are a lot of autistic actors in lead roles that just aren’t diagnosed. When you look back over the decades and you hear these stories about these particularly specific, famously difficult people, who you need to have their dressing room a set way. And need things at a set time and will lose their temper on set. You hear those stories and you think, “Yeah, these old Hollywood stars were probably undiagnosed autistic.”

Autistic people make really good actors because that’s how they survive in social situations. But the autistic people that we had — well, including me now — they weren’t more challenging than your typical actor. The thing about actors is that they’re challenging. They have challenging personalities. And they’re enjoying a really weird specific job where they have to feel a certain emotion at a certain time. And then having to work out how to do that every day makes them a bit crazy. So every actor is a little bit difficult in their own way. Our autistic actors weren’t more or less a higher level of difficulty, just a different type. Every actor has their own set of unique challenges, whether they’re neurodiverse or not.

MW: I don’t remember the timeline of this, but you were diagnosed with autism. And you were public about it.

JOSH: It was in between season one and season two. Actually, the audience kept diagnosing Nicholas, my character. He was not meant to be autistic, he was just based on me really. And they were all like, “Well, Nicholas is definitely autistic.” And then people started going back and saying that Josh in Please Like Me was autistic. Which, yeah, I suppose so. And so then by the time we finished the first season of Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, I knew I had it, and then I wanted to make Nicholas autistic. It was interesting and something I wanted to talk about.

Also, there’d been this pandemic. I didn’t have that much else to talk about. If you get diagnosed with autism during a pandemic, I’m going to put that in the show. And then, I went and got officially diagnosed. But I knew I had it before I went in to get officially diagnosed. At that point, I knew a lot about autism.

MW: There are different levels of autism and I don’t think that everybody understands it. What is it like for you? Can you express in words how it impacts you? How does it manifest itself?

JOSH: Yeah, this conversation probably feels better to you because it’s an interview, so I’m allowed to just monologue. There’s no expectation of me asking you about your pandemic experience. So the one-sidedness in this interview probably masks a lot. And also, one of the big things, autistic people are not born with — how do I say this? They’re not born with an instinct for a lot of these things. So definitely eye contact, I hate it. It makes me feel very anxious. But as you grow up and you realize it’s important, you figure out how to do it. And also that anxiety goes away as you get older. So it becomes easier to make eye contact. Reading facial expressions. I don’t really know because we weren’t paying that much attention when I was a kid, but I really feel like I didn’t know [facial expressions] at all when I was a kid and now I’m better than anybody.

I’m super extroverted. I really like being around people. So it’s been really important to me to figure out how to behave socially. I think for some autistic people, it’s not that important to them. They’re very introverted. So they don’t need to put that much effort into working out how to have these dazzling social skills. It doesn’t really bring them joy. Whereas I’m the complete extreme opposite end of that. So one of the big things that made me confident that I had autism, actually, apart from all the really obvious things, is that my social skills have improved so much since I was 19. Or since I was 10. Because most people don’t have this bell curve of social improvement. But I was working so hard at it.

And really, autistic people do this thing where they replay conversations, trying to figure out what people meant. Like all day, and replay the facial expressions and stuff. And I’ve been doing that obsessively my whole life. And figuring those things out in a cognitive way instead of an instinctual way is not normal. There should be an instinct for that. And I don’t have an instinct for that. But it doesn’t mean that I’m bad at it anymore.

And it wouldn’t be that typical for somebody in their –- well, how old was I? Like 33 — somebody who was an adult, to get an autism diagnosis, especially if they were doing really well. I did it because I was going to come out publicly. And I knew it was going to be important to people that I had my certificate. Otherwise, I would’ve been very happy to just know that I had it and I wouldn’t have felt like I would need to see a doctor. They don’t make any pills for it.

They make pills for other symptoms of autism, maybe. Like anti-anxiety medication. But I don’t have that much anxiety. And it is a hard thing to screen for as an adult because people learn to seem more neurotypical. So a lot of the questionnaires and all of those tests go back to when you were a kid. And how you were as a kid, because generally there is this huge improvement. I think Lillian [Carrier], who plays Drea on our show, she was nonverbal for a period. So she had a few years when she was a child when she didn’t talk. And you can see how far she’s come. Autistic people just have to work a lot harder to figure out how to fit in. But they can do it and then be great, if they want to. Some of them don’t do it, because they don’t want to.

MW: Why did you decide to be public about it?

JOSH: I never wouldn’t. I haven’t got any secrets. It’s such a weird question to me. The thought of not telling people exactly what was happening in my life is so shocking. Of course, I really wanted to do the story in Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. So Nicholas ends up being diagnosed in episode eight or nine. And I really wanted to tell that story about what I was going through. And doing these tests and seeing the psychiatrist and stuff, because I thought it was compelling. And it is definitely one of these stories that you tell, and then lots of people see it and they’re like, “Oh.”

The most common DM I’m getting in my inbox these days are people who have watched that show where Nicholas does the test. So a lot of people end up doing the tests along with him, I suppose. Or at least sections of the test. And then they’re realizing that they’re adult autistic. So I don’t know, that’s just what I’ve always done. Crazy to me not to tell.

One of the big things about coming out as autistic, it is really helpful for people to know that I’m autistic. For me in my life, people around me know these things that I’m struggling with. Especially executive functioning things like keeping appointments and replying to emails and not really knowing and understanding how to read diaries and stuff like that. Having the people around me understand that is actually quite serious. And people understanding when they interact with me socially and I make mistakes, that actually is quite serious. It’s been really helpful as far as coming out as autistic specifically goes.

MW: Should people, if they think they might be autistic, get diagnosed? Or is there some point in, especially later life, where it’s not that vital to know?

JOSH: That’s such a personal question. I think most people that are autistic that get diagnosed have this huge feeling of relief when they get diagnosed. Because they get clarity that the things that have been challenging are specifically challenging to them. And they’re not out of their minds for thinking that these things were harder than other people seem to be finding them. Then that just makes them feel affirmed. And I think they really like that. I got diagnosed. I wasn’t looking for a care plan or anything. But I have found being able to communicate, it’s like a powerful world to you sometimes. Where I can say, “Sorry, I got that wrong. I’m autistic. Can we go again?” That’s useful. Not using it as an excuse, but just being able to communicate why I’m doing things the way I am sometimes, is really helpful.

MW: I admire the two shows that you’ve made. They feel important to me. Please Like Me touched me in a way that few LGBTQ series ever have. And it’s similar to Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, but with the added layer of dealing with a subject that very few shows dare to tread. You are an amazing creator of queer shows that really aren’t stereotypical but try to actually say something about all of our lives.

JOSH: I think both of those shows — I do think it’s queer television. The bigger thing about Please Like Me was suicide attempts. Because it was about my mom’s actual suicide attempts. And when she tried to kill herself in real life, I was like, “I have no idea what this is.” I’ve never seen anything or read anything anywhere that’s prepared me for what this is. And it’s so common actually, knowing someone who’s tried to kill themselves. I think most people are going to have that happen at some point in their life, and nobody really understands it very well. I didn’t understand it very well. And I wanted to show it in a more honest way. And that’s where the beginning of that show started from. And then, that’s just how I approached everything, I suppose. Trying to figure out what these things really look like instead of scripting from a story beat point of view.

MW: Obviously your mother in real life has a happier ending than the mother in Please Like Me. How does your mother respond to your work?

JOSH: How has she responded to watching her fictional character die and then me crying about a fictional character dying? Very blasĂ©. I could tell you, I was pretty worried about it. I did think, “I don’t know how this day is going to be for my mom watching this.” She knows it’s coming, but it’s brutal to watch in the show. It’s very sad. And she just was like, “Oh yeah, okay.” And we never really spoke about it again. And I always think maybe it’s going to come up.

There was this bit of me that wanted her to see everybody sad after this person died. At just how brutal it would be if she had done it. So that she could see that it was a really bad idea. And I don’t know if that happened.

But she responds to my work really, really well. That thing I just said to you about, I never seen anyone on TV deal with mental illness, especially suicide attempts, in an authentic way. This is the power of TV and film — you can share these experiences and make people feel less alone in them. And she agreed to that before we made, Please Like Me.

MW: I have to bring up the fact that your beloved dog, John, passed away. John was so wonderful in Please Like Me. We all felt like we knew him. John was a star. And I’m so sorry for the loss. How have you been coping without him?

JOSH: I talk about this in my show. And every time, I can’t believe how sad I still get about it on stage. I don’t really know what there is to say about it. This is the thing that’s about a dog dying: he’s just a dumb dog. Dogs die. And I knew he was going to die. I think he was 16, although someone messaged me and he was like, “Josh, he was 14.” I was like, “Don’t tell me that.” I much prefer thinking that he was 16. He was old. And I feel like he’d done a really good job. And it was definitely time for him to go. He got cancer.

I got him when I was 19. He was always there. He was on Please Like Me. He was in my house. He moved to America with me. I went through four boyfriends with him. Three boyfriends with him. I don’t know. And he was just a consistent thing. That was such a big thing to lose. And he was such a good little guy. He was so nice. He was never difficult. I got this other dog, Bilby, who he met. She loves pissing in the house. And every time, I think, “John would never do that.”

He hated Bilby and I don’t feel good about it. He did not like her, but she loved him. And he acted like he didn’t like her. But if she left the room, he’d go and check on her. Secretly, I think he had a little crush on her. But I don’t think I would’ve been able to buy a new dog after John died if I didn’t already have one. And I’m really glad that I have Bilby.

MW: My condolences personally to you over John. John was, in a way, part of our lives too, because such an important part of the show. John gives a great performance.

JOSH: He was a really good actor. He really was.

MW: So I want to end this up by doing a quick variance of what you do with AMA. I have this stupid book: The Book of Questions. So you’re just going to pick a number between one and 200, and I’m going to turn to that question and ask it to you.

JOSH: Yeah. Okay, let’s do it. Sixteen.

MW: If at birth you could select the profession your child would eventually pursue, would you do so?”

JOSH: Would I pick my child’s profession? No. Isn’t the fun finding out? I can’t imagine what the fun of having a child is. To me, it just seems like disgusting. It just seems like a lot of excrement and being awake. But I would think the joy of it is getting to know them and finding out who they’re going to be. So I wouldn’t want to pick their job. Also, it feels quite fraught, doesn’t it? Because what if I said in the ’80s, “They’re going to be a typist,” well, that’s not even a job anymore.

MW: Why would you pick typist for your child anyway?

JOSH: I was trying to think of a job that had gone away, and, Randy, I almost said journalism. And then I thought, “No, that might be insulting.”

MW: Okay, next question.

JOSH: Let’s do number one.

MW: For a person you loved deeply, would you be willing to move to a distant country knowing there would be little chance of seeing your friends or family again?”

JOSH: Oh, no. Oh, no, no, no, no. For a boyfriend? No, I wouldn’t move for a partner, no. In my show at the moment, I talk about how I left Australia to move to L.A. and broke up with a boy for it. What job are they doing? They would have to be earning more money than me in their country. That’s the truth. That’s probably the metric for me if you want me to move. Is that crass? Otherwise, I’m like, I got to do my own thing.

Josh Thomas -- Photo: Nicole Reed
Josh Thomas – Photo: Nicole Reed

MW: I told you, this is a silly book.

JOSH: Very intense.

MW: It was a New York Times bestseller.

JOSH: Let’s do 104.

MW: “Would you be willing to give up sex for five years if you could have wonderfully sensual and erotic dreams any night you wished?”

JOSH: No, that’s crazy. Why would I do that? Absolutely not. I have a VR headset, which is basically that. No, I wouldn’t give up sex for five years for much. Would need to be a lot. I feel like this book — what year is this book from?

MW: 1985.

JOSH: It’s like pre-porn, isn’t it? They still think that a sexual and erotic dream is interesting. I can just dial that up. I think to them, that was precious. Okay, I want to hear 140.

MW: Would you like to know the precise date of your death?”

JOSH: Would I like to know the precise date of my death? Does that mean if you know the precise date that you can’t die until that date?

MW: I guess you can interpret it that way.

JOSH: So then it’s locked in. So I could start smoking cigarettes and I could go around base jumping and stuff. And I would know that no matter what I did, I wouldn’t die that day? That I would like. But I don’t think that’s the spirit of the question.

I think the spirit of the question is like, “Would it make me feel more comfortable if I knew the precise date?” And no. No, not at all. It wouldn’t make me feel more comfortable unless I got to be immortal until that date. Then I’d really like it. I’d go and do some weird shit. Imagine my show? Just shoving knives into me and stuff like David Blaine. Because I know I’m not going to die. I guess I could get injured, though. That’s the risk.

MW: There’s a follow-up question. “How many more years do you think you will live?”

JOSH: I don’t know. I always get that. Once a year the accountant asks me how much money I want to put in my American retirement fund. And I’m always like, “Are you kidding? I’m not going to be around for this.” I don’t think so. I’m very clumsy. I can’t imagine much longer. I can’t imagine much longer. But I love to make a risky choice. So we’ll see, I guess. I’m not really scared of death. I don’t really get it. I don’t really understand why me dying is my problem. That really seems like my friend’s problem or my family’s problem. I’ll be dead.

MW: Aren’t you concerned about just not existing any longer?

JOSH: No. Because I won’t be existing. So how would it bother me? If I don’t exist, then I can’t be bothered.

Josh Thomas performs Let’s Tidy Up in Washington, D.C. at the Sixth & I Historic Synagogue, 600 I St. NW, on Thursday, Dec. 7 at 7:30 p.m. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. Tickets are $30. Visit www.sixthandi.org.

The Let’s Tidy Up Tour continues into 2024. For more information and dates visit www.joshthomas.com.au.

Follow Josh Thomas on Instagram at @joshthomas87.

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