'People Hate Youth, Don't They?'

12 October 2015 | 3:30 pm | Hannah Story

"I'm going to hate young people when I'm older, for sure, of course."

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"[The new season] is not that thrilling to talk about because there's no big twist," admits star, writer, and now director of ABC's
Please Like Me
, comedian Josh Thomas. "It's not
, it's just the same stuff. The first episode really focuses in on Josh and Arnold; they left last season in a bit of limbo with Arnold saying he just wanted to be friends, so the first episode is them sort of working through that. The show's never done anything of Josh really genuinely trying to make a relationship work with a guy — they've always been pretty half-hearted."

In Please Like Me, Thomas plays Josh, a fictionalised version of himself, and collaborator Tom Ward is Tom, Josh's best friend. Just how much of Please Like Me's characters' lives come from Thomas and Ward's actual experiences? Do they ever make bad choices just to generate storylines?

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"Sometimes I get really jealous of Taylor Swift and how much heartbreak she's had, y'know? I want to get cheated on by Harry Styles."

"Tom doesn't have to: Tom just makes the most awful choices just naturally. I've really been letting the team down — I've been a really happy relationship for three-and-a-half years, it's really not useful. Going forward, it's just sort of fine, just baking nice things for my nice boyfriend in my quite nice house, [but] sort of not very creatively inspiring. Sometimes I get really jealous of Taylor Swift and how much heartbreak she's had, y'know? I want to get cheated on by Harry Styles.

"I don't know what we're going to do if we go into season four, I'm going to have to really do something really awful to my boyfriend so that he breaks up with me — hopefully that'll create story."

But playing a version of yourself must have its difficulties, with people conflating Thomas with his character. He says that he doesn't hide away the unlikeable parts of himself to save face.

"I always get in trouble from networks for making myself too unlikeable, doing awful things. It's kind of a hard thing to balance, because I could just make myself the best guy, and audiences would probably believe it, they'd probably go with it, but it just doesn't seem like that'd be a very interesting TV show to me. We could just do an episode where I rescue lots of puppies from a fire. I could do it, I could make that happen, but I don't know how compelling it would be.

"I don't know how good a guy we want the main character to be. But also sometimes I just think he's being really reasonable, and then people read the script, and they tell me that he's being really mean. And I'm like, 'What are you talking about? That's the right way to react to that situation.' And they're like, 'No, that's really unlikeable, you have to change that so people don't hate you, that they keep watching the show.'"

Thomas had the opportunity to direct an episode of the new season, when regular director Matt Saville turned his attention to directing a feature film. Thomas says he "just copied what [Saville] did basically".

"I've been working with him for three years now, so I just guessed what I thought Matt would do and then I did that.

"I actually found it easier to act because I knew exactly what was going on and what we were trying to achieve all the time. I think if I was doing a scene — the episode I directed was actually quite silly, it was quite fun — but if I was doing a scene where I had to be really angry or upset that would be quite hard just breaking out of character and talking about the next camera set-up.

"If I was doing a scene where I was wailing crying and then I get to the end of the scene and I have to say 'Cut!' and then sit and watch the scene back to make sure I performed the crying well enough and then go and perform wailing crying again, and then maybe at the end I'll also have to tell the other actors in the scene what to do, whilst in tears, I didn't know how that would work."

Over the past two seasons, Thomas and Ward have created a kind of Australian equivalent to Girls or Looking's explorations of being 20-something and trying to figure it out, complete with job-searching, casual sex, truffled mac and cheese, and considered examinations of mental health.

Such comparisons mean Thomas can be misrepresented him as a kind of figurehead for Gen Y (don't you remember his time as Y's representative on Channel Ten's Talkin' 'Bout Your Generation?), and his show as an accurate depiction of the good and the bad sides of 20-somethings.

"I don't really think I talk for Gen Y, but it's the same with anything: people want to ask me about what the gays are up to, and it's like, I don't really... we're not a team, y'know what I mean? Gays aren't a team, Gen Y is not a team, we're all just pinned onto these artificial groups, and I don't really understand it. I mean I went on that quiz show as the Gen Y guy, I can't really say that I'm reluctant [to speak for Gen Y], when I did that for three or four years.

"Do you think people still think we're bad? People hate youth, don't they? I mean I'm going to hate young people when I'm older, for sure, of course. They're so far away from death, and it would annoy you — it would just piss you off. When I'm 40, I'm definitely going to hate 20-year-olds. I mean I already hate 20-year-olds and I'm only 28. I think it's natural. I don't really hate 20-year-olds. I don't know, I don't think so, they're probably alright. [They have] so much energy."