Josh Thomas on being a celebrity crush and why he can’t rebrand like Madonna
15th November 2023

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When comedian Josh Thomas hops onto Zoom to talk about his new stand-up show Let’s Tidy Up, he is fixated on its precise length.

One of his trial shows ran to one hour, 54 minutes. “That’s like Avatar. Nobody wants to sit there and watch me for an hour and 54 minutes.”

LA-based Australian comedian Josh Thomas will return to his home country for a tour from the end of January.Credit: Nicole Reed

In Dallas, where he performed earlier this month, his set ran to an hour and 45 minutes. “This is like the most autistic interview I’ve ever done. It’s me just listing stats at you,” he says with a laugh.

We’ll soon see exactly how long Thomas’ show runs when he tours Australia for the first time in five years from the end of January, kicking off in Sydney before heading across the country, including to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

“I definitely think this show is my best show,” he says.

Thomas, the creator and star of Emmy-nominated series Please Like Me and the critically lauded Everybody’s Gonna Be Okay, has lived in Los Angeles since 2017. The show – written with American-Australian playwright Lally Katz (Atlantis; Minnie and Liraz) – unpacks Thomas’ experience starting again in a new country, his diagnoses with autism and ADHD, and his aversion to tidying up.

Thomas with Thomas Ward, Caitlin Stasey and Debra Lawrance in Please Like Me.

“The most stressful part of being alive, for me, is housework,” he says.

He is concerned he may never be able to change that about himself, linking his fear to his diagnoses: “When you get diagnosed, that’s really somebody telling you: ‘No, this is like who you are, and there’s not going to be that much self-improvement really.’

“There’s some peace in accepting the chaos of ADHD and just knowing, ‘of course, I’m going to lose my stuff’, and forgiving yourself, but there’s a torture in that as well. Every time you lose your keys, you’re like: ‘Oh, wait, this is always gonna happen for the rest of my life’.

“I’ve been trying to figure out how much we’re meant to give up and how much we’re meant to try.”

Everything’s Gonna Be Okay, starring Thomas and Kayla Cromer, ran for two seasons.Credit: Freeform/Tony Rivetti

Thomas is touring Let’s Tidy Up around North America. One distinction between American and Australian audiences is the style of heckler, with the former shouting out words of encouragement.

When he mentions John the dog, who starred in Please Like Me, they shout: “Woo, yeah, John!” or call out “Yes! Good!” when they approve of a joke.

“No one in Australia has ever just yelled out a gentle compliment,” he says. “So whenever I hear somebody [do that], I’m on the attack, and then I realise that they’re saying something quite sweet.”

It’s not the first time that Thomas has been heckled in an arguably positive way. He recalls teen girls at a show when he was 20 shouting “I love you”.

“They would scream as if I was cute or something,” he says. “You have to have low self-esteem in high school for me to be your celebrity crush.”

Thomas took a break from stand-up in 2013, off the back of the success of Please Like Me, and returned six years later with Whoopsie Daisy, which closed a week before LA went into COVID lockdown. It may have been a few years between gigs, but Thomas has 18 years of stand-up under his belt, having started when he was in his teens, winning emerging comic competition Raw Comedy in 2005 at the age of 17, and Best Newcomer at MICF in 2007.

Josh Thomas represented Millennials in Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation.Credit: Rodger Cummins

“My stand-up when I was a young was kind of offensive,” he says. “From when I was 17 to 21, such a big part of my career was the fact that I was a child. When I was on Talkin’ ’Bout Your Generation, the fact I was stupid and young was the whole thing.

“I don’t think people really think I’m that dumb any more,” he says with a laugh.

Making Please Like Me helped Thomas to feel comfortable tackling more serious subjects, including mental illness. He’s also moved into more long-form storytelling on stage over the past decade. As he’s grown up, his comedy has changed, but he still delivers what audiences expect from him.

“I think you’d probably feel weird if you came to my show now and we didn’t talk about something sad,” he says. “I’m a comedian. I can’t rebrand or change my personality like Madonna. I’m always just me.”

Let’s Tidy Up is at Sydney Opera House from January 31 to February 18; Canberra Theatre Centre on February 23; Theatre Royal, Hobart, on February 29; Newcastle Civic Theatre on March 2; Adelaide Fringe from March 5 to 10; Cairns Performing Arts Centre on March 15; State Theatre Centre of WA on April 6; Melbourne International Comedy Festival from April 9 to 21; Empire Theatre, Toowoomba on May 1; and Brisbane Comedy Festival from May 2 to 5.

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