If you’ve ever questioned your sexuality, then “Am I gay?” is almost certainly a question you’ve asked yourself and/or Google more than once. Nobody knows this better than LA-based Aussie comedian, actor, writer and TV producer Josh Thomas who, on multiple occasions, found himself asking Google this same question.

“When I was a teenager,” Thomas tells Broadsheet, “I used to type into Google these really dumb questions that Google actually cannot answer. And once I asked Google, ‘Am I gay?’, which is not something Google knows the answer to.

“So I would ask it, ‘How to be gay’.”

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The question has continued to interest Thomas, and since he was unsatisfied with Google’s lacklustre answers, he’s taken matters into his own hands by creating an irreverent but informative nine-part 30-minute podcast series called How To Be Gay. “[‘It’s] vaguely me talking about my answers to all those questions and then checking in with a really wide range of people about their experiences. It’s like a very deep dive into gayness.”

Among this selection of interviewees are prominent people from the LGBTIQ+ community. They include Americans such as humourist and writer David Sedaris; actor and musician Titus Burgess; comic, actor and writer Tig Notaro; and stand-up comedian, writer, and actor Joel Kim Booster. There’s also other queer people like Chechnyan refugee Angel Joy, as well as Josh’s mum and Shelly Marsh, who has carried a number of surrogate babies for gay couples.

Unflinchingly honest, this documentary/memoir has somewhat darker undertones than Thomas’s other material, such as his critically acclaimed, funny but heartbreaking show Please Like Me (filmed in Melbourne), and Everything’s Gonna Be Okay (filmed in America). A more serious tone wasn’t his original intention for the podcast, but he’s fully embracing it.

“I’ve always presented queerness as this really fun thing,” he says. “And at the time [in the mid-2010s], that seemed really necessary because all the stuff I was seeing about queerness was always about the suicide rates and how hard it is to be gay. All the conversations that everybody was having around me were just so dark.

“So if anything, Please Like Me was a counterreaction [to those conversations], where I could show being gay as really light and fun, which actually is the reality of how my life is. Like, being gay is really fun to me. It’s just a lot of dancing and, like, kissing strangers.

“Then with this podcast, I wanted to do the opposite and acknowledge that while, for me, being queer is very light and fluffy, and really easy, that’s not the experience that everybody shares. But I don’t think I wanted this podcast to be sad. It’s just that the reality of what queer people experience is sometimes, like, pretty fucked up.”

In several episodes, for example, Thomas’s interviewees recount how painful – and at times traumatic – their coming out experiences were. “That was the one consistent in every single interview; everyone has had to go through something quite difficult. Everybody who’s queer has had a difficult conversation with their parents.”

Thomas has been in the public eye since the early 2000s, coming to prominence in 2005 when, aged 17, he became the youngest person to take out Melbourne Comedy Festival’s Raw Comedy Competition. He’s never shied away from saying what he thinks, and his shows and stand-up are deeply honest. And he’s no stranger to controversy – at a 2016 Writers’ Room panel discussion he made racially insensitive comments for which he was widely criticised.

Despite touching on challenging and confronting themes, How To Be Gay is essential listening for anyone wanting to learn more about the queer community. “I did this podcast because I wanted to learn about these things, and I feel like I really learned a lot, and it made me really happy to be queer. I was like, ‘Oh yeah, it's really challenging, but it’s actually, like, really cool.’”

Josh Thomas’s How To Be Gay is out now only on Audible.

audible.com.au/begay
@joshthomas87