Josh Thomas comes of age
Josh Thomas comes of age

For comedian Josh Thomas, making his own TV show not only involved acting for the first time but directing make-out scenes.

In the new ABC series Please Like Me, the 25-year-old plays a younger version of himself. In the opening scene, his awkward 20-year-old character is dumped by his girlfriend Claire (Caitlin Stasey), who tells him he's probably gay. Claire's suspicions turn out to be true when Josh meets and promptly hooks up with an attractive co-worker of his best friend Tom (Thomas Ward) called Geoffrey (WAAPA graduate Wade Briggs).

Although the series, written by Thomas, was in the hands of renowned Australian TV director Matthew Saville (Cloudstreet, We Can Be Heroes), Thomas admits he had to take the reins during the more intimate scenes.

"Matt Saville can't handle sex scenes," Thomas explains, over the phone from Melbourne, where the show is set.

"He gets really awkward and hates directing them so he basically won't do it. I had to tell Wade (who is straight in real life) what to do because Matt's too shy . . . we just had to work it out for ourselves. It was pretty awkward," Thomas giggles.

The coming-of-age dramedy shows Thomas as a student happily sharing a house with his best friend when a couple of big events simultaneously throw his world into chaos.

Not only does he experience a sexual awakening and clumsily enter into a relationship with a man, but his divorced mum (played by Debra Lawrance, aka Pippa from Home and Away) overdoses on painkillers and Josh is forced to move back into the family home to take care of her. He also has to deal with his dad's guilt over his ex-wife as he attempts to hide his new, younger girlfriend.

"(It explores) what happens when you get to the age of about 20 and you start hanging out with your parents and they start being like a friend or a housemate. I'm interested in that shift in relationships," Thomas explains.

"Another big theme is empty-nest syndrome. There are a lot of middle-aged ladies that dedicated their lives to their kids then all of their kids moved out and they got divorced and now they don't really know what to do."

The Brisbane-born performer - known for his camp, self-deprecating comedic style and often garbled, made-up accent - compares Please Like Me to American series Curb Your Enthusiasm, where a real- life comedian, Larry David, plays himself in fictional scenes.

Best known for his stand-up shows and as Generation Y team captain on Ten's Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation, Thomas says getting his own TV show was "the Holy Grail", a move that is becoming more common among successful Australian comedians. And although starring in a show with no acting experience was a risk, he didn't find it difficult because he was being himself.

"This is a big wildcard because I've never acted," he says. "For three years when we were writing it, at every single meeting someone would say 'What if Josh can't act', and we'd all just go quiet.

"Matt (Saville) said to me 'Listen to what the other person says and then react the way you think you would react if somebody said that to you'.

"It's just me saying what I think in every scene."

Please Like Me airs today at 9.30pm on ABC2.

The West Australian

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