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Josh Thomas: Let's Tidy Up

  • Comedy, Comedy festival
  • 4 out of 5 stars
  • Recommended
Josh Thomas for Let's Tidy Up
Photograph: Supplied | Token | Josh Thomas

Time Out says

4 out of 5 stars

Josh Thomas is at his "erratic but engaging" best in his much-anticipated return to stand-up

Aussie comedian Josh Thomas has come a long way from being the guy who was always shooting zany one-liners on prime time television panel shows. Turning his hand to writing, acting and producing, he's gone on to create and star in the groundbreaking comedy series Please Like Me, and then the American-produced series Everything’s Gonna Be Okay. (Currently, he's working on Good Person, a new series in development with Hulu & 20th.) Now, Thomas is finally making his much-anticipated return to stand-up, with Let’s Tidy Up playing at Arts Centre Melbourne from April 9-21. Tickets are available here and you can keep reading for our review of the Sydney season of the show.

Forty-five minutes into Josh Thomas’s solo show at Sydney Opera House, he grabs a broom and breaks into a languidly executed and bizarrely brilliant dance routine that belies the unlikely sex symbol that he is to many Australian millennials. As a British import, the intricacies of many of Australia’s pop culture personas remain a mystery to me. I’d been unaware of this side to the comedian (whose existence I’d learnt of only days prior), and it made a fun addition to the cocktail of traits that form his on-stage persona: erratic but engaging, wicked-smart but infinitely endearing.

For someone who has (staggeringly) managed to make it to 2024 without encountering the cultural phenomenon that is Josh Thomas (or the television shows he has written, produced and starred in: Please Like Me and Everything’s Gonna Be Ok) I’m quickly acquainted with the cornerstones of his identity. Early into the show, he recounts his diagnoses with both ADHD and autism – describing how the former brought him face to face with the ghosts of what he thought he could become, and the latter came as an unsurprising relief.

For a show that is ostensibly about one of the most mundane of domestic tasks, Let's Tidy Up belies some pretty profound wisdom.

With a lightness that appears effortless, Thomas explains how his autism diagnosis arrived as welcome news – and the qualification that yes, life for him is harder than it is for most neurotypical folks. And while (appropriately) non-neurodivergent audience members might feel some discomfort around jokes made about autism, he handles the topic with masterful delicacy. This, I learn, is what has gained him a position as one of the most widely-loved comedians of a generation: a self-referential ability to expose the intricacies of his own existence in a way that feels inherently relatable. That broad-spanning relatability comes as a result of his varied life experience – growing up in middle-income Australia, then being catapulted into the spotlight and the sparkly life that surrounds it in his late teens.

With entirely unfiltered detail, Thomas recounts experiences that are both absurdly aspirational (an engagement at a private villa in Vietnam, a poolside party in West Hollywood) and excruciatingly embarrassing. Cumulatively, these stories lay the groundwork for the crux of the show. Let's Tidy Up is billed as an examination of how the act of tidying up presents a personal challenge, but ultimately it’s so much more – an interrogation of the myth of self improvement and the universality of mediocrity as perceived through Thomas’ (apparently trademark) unfiltered lens.

Lally Katz, the award-winning playwright who worked with him on the script, is referred to throughout the show – with the kind of warmth that portrays the pair's friendship. The chaotic dinner parties and the indelicate dating advice that Katz shares with Thomas are the most aspirational anecdotes, and serve to highlight one of the key takeaways: that the sparkling experiences we see on screen aren’t the ones we should be shooting for.

For a show that is ostensibly about one of the most mundane of domestic tasks, Let's Tidy Up belies some pretty profound wisdom. To paraphrase his (startlingly philosophical) monologue on the human condition: we’re all shit, what’s shit about us now will be what’s shit about us when we die, and that’s exactly what the people who love us love us for.

The dance with the broom is as close as Thomas gets to actually “tidying up” the perfectly-chaotic set that stands otherwise untouched behind him on the stage. Aside from gaining an additional half-tonne of paper hearts that fall sporadically from the ceiling through the duration of the show, the set itself doesn’t change a bit. And that’s perhaps the main message that Thomas seeks to share – that the mess within all of us will never really change, and that’s the beauty of being human.

Want more? Check out who else is performing at the 2024 Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

Winnie Stubbs
Written by
Winnie Stubbs


Opening hours:
8.30pm; 7.30pm
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