The reluctant activist stands up for himself
Apr 13, 2013
Josh Thomas has become an accidental icon for the gay community.
Josh Thomas is back doing stand-up. It's a relaxing change for the comedian, as he has finally stepped off the promotional circuit for Please Like Me, his first foray into writing and acting for television, and a show that has helped him become an accidental icon for the gay community.
On Monday he will appear in the Sydney Comedy Festival gala after a month-long run at the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.
"If I do the whole month [of comedy] then no one can take me to a different city," he says with relief.
"I get a whole month at home and I can just hang out with my dog and my chickens."
But it wasn't quite a perfect escape. On April Fool's Day he was flown to Sydney to appear on the ABC's Q&A on a panel that otherwise sounds like the perfect set-up for a joke: an archbishop, an imam, a Buddhist nun and a Jewish atheist. He soon found himself the presumed spokesman for homosexuality and atheism on topics ranging from gay marriage to creationism.
"It was such a divisive show, where you've got religious leaders that dedicate their life to the conversation we had, but to me it's a hobby," Thomas said.
He was also the default target for the religious leaders' comments on homosexuality.
"They were offensive," he said. "Like: gays are sinners. An imam compared gays to alcoholics. [The archbishop said] I was a warp in God's plan.
"It was just a bamboozling hour really, because I'm an atheist. So my response to everything everybody says is 'oh that's nonsense, that has no basis in reality'."
Thomas had agreed to appear on the show as an artist, hoping to provide an "everyman" opinion, but found himself berated on social media for not going on the attack.
"A lot of atheists were like, 'You represented us badly.' And I was like, 'Oh no, I don't represent atheists. I didn't represent you in the way I didn't represent people who don't do ballet. We're not a team.'"
It's not the only community now embracing Thomas. Though not quite biographical, Please Like Me, the show he wrote and starred in on ABC2, featured a central character, Josh, who came out at the start of the first episode.
"Since that show happened, gays have sort of realised that I'm gay," Thomas said.
"I don't get invited to do things during Mardi Gras or to talk at rallies. They always get Ruby Rose. They don't realise I'm a homo. Which is good. I often think with gayness, it's enough I have to deal with homophobia - do I really have to spend my weekends going on about it?"
His position is possibly best expressed through his approach to the development of the show.
"We had these meetings with the ABC where they'd talk about how we're dealing with homosexuality. I was like, 'That's just my life. I haven't thought about how my life plays out as a political statement.'"
The show had no gay themes to begin with, for one very simple reason. "Well, we started writing it when I was straight," Thomas said.
Once Thomas came out, so did his character Josh, and it was the ABC that pushed for the script to deal with the issue. "It became one of the over-arching themes, which I didn't really want, to be honest …
''I had such a dull coming out experience. I didn't know how interesting it was to straight people."
While the show didn't set ratings records, ranking 215th in its first week, it was critically well received. Thomas was happy with the numbers. "It tripled the ABC2 time slot," he said. "It's really popular overseas. My Tumblrs and my Twitter now has a lot of Spanish."
Having pitched a second series, Thomas is relying on DVD sales "so we can give the ABC some money back - and then hopefully they will make it again."
Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/comedy/the-reluctant-activist-stands-up-for-himself-20130420-2i6u1.html