Josh Thomas: Let's Tidy Up | Melbourne International Comedy Festival review
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Josh Thomas: Let's Tidy Up

Melbourne International Comedy Festival review

Josh Thomas performs in front of a dining table and chairs, scattered with domestic ephemera and buried under an avalanche of confetti that continues to drift from the ceiling as the show progresses.

It’s a direct representation of the clutter in his Los Angeles home and a metaphorical one about the state of his mind, thoughts perpetually drifting into the picture, mounting up. Can he tidy that?

The comic has ADHD, diagnosed ‘back when it was still interesting’ (and he has few barbs about how ubiquitous the condition now appears among comedians), as well as a more recent discovery of autism. Quite how he remains undistracted by the paper constantly tumbling from the sky is a mystery.

Tidying up is not Thomas’s strong suit, and the narrative is loosely threaded around his inability to declutter his house. He puts off the task just as he puts off finishing the anecdote, instead digressing through a succession of self-analytical stories, gently and charmingly building up a character portrait of himself and all his neurodiverse quirks, not always painting himself in the best light.

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‘I think that I’m fine,’ he says at the start of the show in his placeless, peculiarly languid and heavily inflected accent – though not entirely convincingly. The message of these 70 minutes may be the antithesis of a motivational one – that self-improvement is fundamentally impossible – but instead he quietly preaches acceptance and management of whatever eccentric character traits you have.

His include an aversion to small talk – no wonder he shuns crowd work – and a rather unfortunate tendency to get confused about the men in his life. 

Much of the show takes place in Los Angeles, where he moved following the success of Please Like Me. There, friendship dynamics are so different from Australia, and he goes to pool parties full of ‘twinks’ – but still has to face the everyday awkwardness of dating.

There’s an eye-popping story set on a funicular railway, a tragicomic story about his dog, relatable observational material on the likes of tote bags, a serious poem and even an unexpected dance number which breaks up the yarns.

It’s amusing stuff, but Let’s Tidy Up doesn’t quite deliver on its ambition to be more than the sum of its anecdotal parts, despite the influence of playwright Lally Katz as co-writer. 

Nevertheless, Thomas allows himself to be vulnerable - if sometimes brittle with others – and we are offered an amusing insight into what makes him tick and that a different tempo to almost everyone else.

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Review date: 17 Apr 2024
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett
Reviewed at: Melbourne International Comedy Festival

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