'Please Like Me' creator Josh Thomas on the 'Girls' comparison
Twenty-six-year-old Australian comedian Josh Thomas has become the face of Pivot, the new network for millennials that launched today. Tonight at 8 p.m. ET, the cable channel, available in roughly 40 million homes, will marathon the six-episode first season of his Aussie import Please Like Me, a comedy he created, wrote, executive-produced, and stars in as Josh, a young man who moves back in with his mother after she attempts suicide and who is just realizing he’s gay. You can watch the first episode below and feel good about getting invested — a 10-episode second season has already been greenlit.
ENTERTAINMENT WEEKLY: American TV reviewers are enjoying likening your show to a male version of Girls. What do you think about that?
JOSH THOMAS: Girls is a good show, right? Girls won awards and things, right? [Laughs] I’m fine with that. I was hoping that they would review it as, like, a younger Everybody Loves Raymond, because I love that show. But Girls is fine, yeah.
Do you really love Raymond? Are you joking?
Oh, I love Everybody Loves Raymond. I love that bit in every episode where, like, they’re fighting and you’re like, “Oh no, how could this get any worse?” And then Marie [Doris Roberts] walks in. Wah-wah-waaaah. Do you know what I mean? I f—ing love Everybody Loves Raymond.
Have you seen Girls?
We were editing this show when Girls came out, and then when it came out, a few executives were saying to me, “Oh, I feel like this is gonna be a similar vibe to Girls,” so I really purposely avoided it. Because I want to be in my ignorant creative bubble. That was then, and now I’ve seen, like, two episodes. It’s very good. I don’t know what we have in common. I don’t actually think we have a lot in common. I just think maybe what’s happening is that older people are seeing this show made by a younger person and they’re just like, “Well, this is young.”
Your show isn’t anywhere as cringe-worthy. I want to spend more time in your life.
Oh, that’s nice.
The Pivot mission is to program shows that spark conversation and inspire change. What is the conversation you hope people have as they’re marathoning your show?
[Laughs] I don’t come at it with any point, do you know what I mean? I get asked a lot, “Do you think the gay storyline in the show will help with gay rights?” I didn’t write that story with the vision of trying to get gay marriage passed. I just was writing my view of the world, and some people will take some things from that.
I’ve read interviews where you’ve said coming out to your friends wasn’t a big deal, and you were interested in seeing that story on TV. Why is it important to see someone like Josh’s best friend Tom, played by your real-life best friend Thomas Ward, barely skip a beat?
I think a lot of coming-out stories in shows are quite traumatic, which is fine. For a lot of people it is a really big deal. There’s still kids getting kicked out of their home for being gay. To me, it just wasn’t a big deal. I just feel like chucking that storyline into the mix of storylines we have of people coming out was kind of fun. I don’t know that I would say it’s important. Is it important? I can’t imagine me doing anything that was important. I can’t imagine.
Well, let’s at least call it refreshing. The storyline of Josh moving back in with his mother after she attempts suicide is also something inspired by your life. What did you pull directly from that real-life experience for the show?
There are, like, direct conversations that are word-for-word conversations that I had with my mum. There’s a scene in the first episode. [Someone at the hospital asks if his mother has a headache, and Josh says, “A headache? She took quite a bit of Pentothal.” His mother says she does, and Josh tells her, “If you get a headache in the next few weeks, I really think you should be calling that customer complaint line.”] That was a real-world conversation. [Laughs] She thought that was funny. She’s got a sense of humor. I think pretty much everybody is going to, at some point, have someone they love attempt suicide. I don’t know if that’s an incredibly pessimistic view of the world. I just feel like that’s quite likely to happen to everybody at some point. Or they’ll at least have a friend that has somebody they love attempt suicide. I hadn’t really seen it talked about that openly or authentically. I felt like because I’ve lived through it, I had credibility to write about it. Plus, I’m not very clever. I don’t know a lot about the world; I just have to write about things that happened to me. That’s the only thing I know.
And nothing has been changed from the Aussie version of the show, other than perhaps the title sequence?
That’s quite a cool choice that Pivot has made. We were talking for a little while about doing an American remake, and then Pivot quite coolly said, “Oh, maybe we won’t do that thing that Americans do where they find a show they like and then make another version of it that’s horrible.” They were quite aware of that being a thing that happens. That’s when I fell in love with them. That’s when I was like, “Oh, I like you guys.” That’s quite edgy to take a show from another country and then pay to put the-guy-that-made-it’s face on a bus. That’s quite a bold choice, I think. In L.A., there’s this double-decker bus that’s going around that’s like a Starline tour, and my disgusting mole on my lip — that’s, like, somebody’s window. They’re out there doing a tour of L.A., and everything they’re seeing is just through my disgusting mole. Like, “That’s the Hollywood sign… by Josh Thomas’ disgusting mouth!” “This is the toilet where George Michael was caught jerking off… through Josh Thomas’ disgusting mouth!” That’s my boyfriend’s favorite tourist spot that he’s seen while he was here. [Laughs]
What was the last TV show that you marathoned?
Downton Abbey. But you know, I love Curb Your Enthusiasm, and I always make the mistake of marathoning that. You just get physically ill. It’s so intense. I’ll stay up and watch it all night, and you wake up with a hangover. I also love Everybody Loves Raymond, obviously.
I’m taking you at your word, so if you’re joking, tell me now.
No, I love Everybody Loves Raymond. [Publicist confirms it: “Ray Romano is my No. 1 star sighting, always. And of course, since Josh has been here, it’s the one week I haven’t seen him.”] Oh my god, if I saw Ray Romano! I mean, I’d rather see Marie, the mom. That is my dream.
You’ve got a second season of Please Like Me. Where are you in the process of prepping for it?
We just announced it, like, three days ago. Maybe get off my back a little bit. [Laughs] I’ve got meetings where I’m sitting with people talking about ideas that I think are good. I think it’s gonna be good.
What are you pushing for?
Just, like, as many beautiful men to kiss me as I can convince them to allow. Because in series 1, it’s just like one guy. It got boring for me. [Laughs]