EXCLUSIVE: Josh Thomas on Please Like Me

Written by | Entertainment

One of the best shows on TV you’re probably not watching yet is Please Like Me.

The show’s creator, writer and star Josh Thomas based it on both his stand-up comedy and real-life experience. The pilot opens with the protagonist, also named Josh, being dumped by his girlfriend Claire who suspects he’s gay. Turns out, he is. From there, the series takes on suicide, family dysfunction, coming out, unemployment, STIs, early-adult ennui, and adultery, all through an honest lens. And it’s hilarious.

Please Like Me’s 10-episode third season premieres on the cable network Pivot on Friday, October 16 at 10pm ET. Josh Thomas spoke about it with Metrosource right as he was waking up in Australia.

Interview by Matt Gurry

Josh Thomas (by Michael Muller)

Josh Thomas (by Michael Muller)

METROSOURCE: Good evening! Or good morning, maybe? Are you in Australia right now?

JOSH THOMAS: Yeah, I’m in Melbourne. Do I sound alright? Because I just woke up and I’m trying my best to sound like, you know, [with extra pep] present and awake.

You do! You sound fine. My first pressing question for you is about John the dog [Josh’s adorable dog on Please Like Me]. I was looking at your Instagram account, and—

Yeah, here he is. He’s right here. [to John] He’s talking about you.

Okay, well, I was going to ask if John the dog is yours, but I take it he is.

Yeah, he’s my dog. And we’re in bed right now. [to John] Hey buddy.

This makes me happy. I mean, I’m trying not to sound more excited to be talking with him than with you, but—

[laughs] No. You can be more excited about John the dog. He’s a fucking babe.

He’s a good actor, too.

Well now he’s just jumping onto his bed, licking his dick. [to John] I mean, come on, be a gentleman. Come on, buddy. All right. Thank you. [laughs]

What kind of dog is he?

He is a canoodle. It’s a Cavalier Spaniel crossed with a poodle. I think he might be eight years old, nine years. But he doesn’t look a day over three. You wouldn’t know, but this pup is getting on. He’s an old dog.

Josh Thomas, Keegan Joyce and John the Dog in "Please Like Me"

Josh Thomas, Keegan Joyce and John the Dog in “Please Like Me”

My second question—and if she’s in bed with you, too, I’m going to flip out—what is the theme song to Please Like Me, and who sings it? It puts me in such a good mood.

It’s called “I’ll Be Fine,” by Clairy Browne & the Bangin’ Rackettes. And none of them are here and I think that they broke up. I mean, I think that band doesn’t exist anymore, but I shouldn’t say that; maybe I’m wrong.

I love how you work it into each episode, often over shots of you or someone else cooking. Are you a baker personally?

Yeah, I really like cooking. And I’m alright with it too, you know. I know a lot about cooking, but I’m a bit shit at it because I don’t pay enough attention to what I’m doing. I know a lot, like, if you want to know how to make something I could probably tell you.

Do you have any specialties?

I like to make, what you call in the U.S., barbecue, like slow-cooked meat. In Australia, barbecue means a different thing. It just means grilling on a hotplate, like sausages or something. Nobody in Australia does outdoor slow-cooked meat. I don’t think people do here, anyway, but I do it.

I asked because I know your show is to some extent autobiographical, so I was wondering if the focus on food was part of that. But more generally, did you know from the beginning what the balance between you and your character would be? That is, where “Josh” becomes his own character and not Josh Thomas?

No, not really; we were just trying to make a story. Something in my life will happen and maybe we’ll use that, or something happens in somebody else’s life and we use that. A lot of the characters are based on someone I’ve met or someone I’ve known. But we do make up a lot of stuff. I couldn’t even tell you how much is real or not real. It happens in my stand-up a lot, where I’ll take things that happened in my life, but I change it a bit for the routine. The show was based on my stand-up and the stand-up gets on the show and I can’t remember how it actually happened.

Yeah, I was just catching up on your stand-up, and I saw a bit where you were making fun of reiki, which had showed up in the show as well.

Yeah. Actually, [the actor who plays Josh’s reiki-fan date] is my boyfriend. He’s also here! He’s just out making tea. But yeah, that scene where I tell him about reiki and he leaves, that’s our first date. But he stayed! [laughs] So I just wanted to give him an opportunity to imagine his life if he had made a better decision than to date such an asshole.

What’s his name?

His name is Josh. Same as me.

Do you like being the Joshes? I’ve always wanted to date another Matt, so we could be the Matts and we would be overly precious about it, and, you—you’re living the dream!

You really think it’s a dream? Whenever I introduce someone to him I have to have a conversation about it. We always know when people are talking to him or to me because, like, if there will be a different tone in their voice. He’s like, quite liked. And you can sense a different tone for him. For me, they have this slightly disappointed tone, and towards him, it’s just sort of this glowing enthusiasm.

On that, let’s about we pick up in season three with all the characters.

Well, Josh and Arnold…at the end of episode 10, Arnold said he just wants to be friends, so we have to sort that out. And we spend time with Dad; Josh and Dad had this fight, and we never really explored that. So we do a lot with Dad, Alan, in the next season.

And Mae?

Well Mae, Mae and Dad—there’s trouble ahead…

Tease! Will we see more of Claire?

Claire’s back. She’s in Germany, so she’s got to come back. Every year we’ve got to do this.

I was wondering about Claire being in Germany. Was that written out of necessity? Or was it a choice from the beginning? I mean, was Caitlin Stasey not available for some of the episodes, or was that just where you wanted to go dramatically?

I mean, we wanted to generally do it. My friend was in Hamburg, and she was just hating it, and you know, it’s something that I think people at that age do. But we weren’t sure—because [Caitlin Stasey] was doing Reign—we weren’t sure if she could come back this season, so we got rid of her. And then she could come back, so now she’s back! [laughs] That’s not a very inspiring to know when you watch a TV show, when you watch a story’s development, is it? It’s not what you want to be thinking about.

No, but it is part of the business.

Well, I think it is a really legitimate story. You have that character going to Germany, and she’s thinking it’s a new, cool thing, when actually she’s all alone in Germany and having a shit time. I think it’s a common experience for people our age.

Speaking of your story, you have this annoying habit of killing off characters who, right as I really grow to like them, you kill them off. Aunt Peg, Ginger. So, should I avoid getting attached to anyone in season three?

[laughs] Well, you can’t kill off a character that people don’t like! Know what I mean? You have to pick off the ones that are liked. Otherwise, what’s the point?

That’s a dick thing to say!

Well, if you don’t care about them, that’s not drama, is it? But I’m not going to tell you if anyone dies this season. No, I’m not going to tell you that. I mean, there’s lot of death. Things die on the show all the time. A possum and lots of like other things, yeah. And there’s lots of death still.

The show is so beautifully shot. I’m wondering if that’s Matthew Seville’s eye. Did he direct all of the episodes?

He directed all of the episodes. But I do one next year! He couldn’t do one of the weeks, so I direct an episode, but I’m really like the substitute teacher. He just couldn’t do that week. I’ve got one coming up that I direct in season three.

You say he was gone for a week. Do you shoot each episode in one week?

No, not usually. Usually, we shoot them over a whole season, but we just moved one episode into one week; I shot some stuff that week, and he shot some things that are in my episode. But mostly I did that one episode.

Got it, well what I was saying is that the episodes look beautiful, so I’m wondering if that was Matthew’s eye?

That’s Matthew, yeah. Matthew and the director of photography. We had a different DP in season one. But Matthew’s style is to make things very pretty. That’s what we really wanted, I think, because—especially in Australia—comedies are often really ugly. We didn’t want that. We wanted it to be really pretty because all the people in the show are…they’re all quite rich, and the place where they live is very beautiful, and the world they’re in is comfortable and nice, but they still have all these problems. I kind of liked that as an idea from the beginning.

Last question, and it’s one you asked I want to turn back on you. At the end of last season, your character asks the others what the 10-year-old versions of themselves would think about what they’ve become. So: What would the 10-year-old do you think about who you’ve become?

Oh, he’d be so thrilled! I’m a stand-up comedian, so he’d just be so thrilled, but then he’d see me pass an ice cream store or a lolli shop or just the candy section of the supermarket and not buy anything even though I have, like, shitloads of cash in the bank and, like, can definitely afford a Mars bar, and I just think the 10-year-old me would just be so upset about that. Like, that was everything to me when I was 10, trying to get my hand on candy, and now I can have as much as I want and I just refuse to touch it because now, I want to be skinny. Sorry to disappoint!

Does that come from being on television or from being on camera?

I mean, yeah, but also, it’s just, you know, I want to be skinny! [laughs]

Ha! Well, thank you for dumping a huge issue at the end of the interview, because now I have, like, 500 questions I want to ask you about it, but—

[laughs] I want to be skinny! I just want to be beautiful. Everyone just wants to be beautiful, don’t they? [laughs] I mean, you can’t just go around eating Mars bars all the time. That’s not a thing you can do, eating piles of Mars bars. It’s not like I can eat like I wanted to when I was 10; we’d be having Mars bars for dinner every day.

I don’t know why I keep saying Mars, I’m not that into Mars bars.

I was wondering if they’re paying you, if you were an ambassador or something.

No, it’s just the only candy I could think of that I know you guys definitely have. I like your Babe Ruth bars. I like those. And the crunchy butter ones? Butterfingers? Yeah. They’re delicious. We don’t have those.

Understood. Well, thank you for your time, Josh, and I’m really glad to know that John was sitting there with us the whole time.

He just would not stop licking his dick. [to John, chiding] Come on, John.

A perfect place to end.

Please Like Me returns to the channel Pivot with season three on Friday, October 16 at 10pm ET.

Last modified: March 13, 2018