Josh Thomas ‘ashamed’ by resurfaced clip
Australian comedian Josh Thomas has publicly apologised for comments he made about hiring non-white actors during a 2016 panel discussion, after a clip of the discussion was shared widely on social media yesterday.
The backlash was sparked after Please Like Me star Thomas had posted an image of Coon cheese on Twitter, arguing that the term was "hate speech" and advocating for a name change to the product.
But as his followers debated the topic, one reply gained traction: Activist, actor and writer Moreblessing Maturure posted a YouTube link to a 2016 panel discussion on writer's rooms Thomas had participated in alongside fellow writer/actors Dan Harmon, Celia Pacquola and Luke McGregor.
"Has anyone told Josh Thomas that 44:00 onwards of this The Writer's Room is infamous in many-a rooms/masterclasses? The shorthand is 'Don't be The Josh of the room,'" they wrote.
The clip in question sees Thomas, who was the creator, writer, star and occasional director of his cult hit series Please Like Me, discussing difficulties in casting actors from diverse backgrounds.
Warning that "this is going to sound racist," Thomas said, "most of the immigrants in Australia have come pretty recently, and generally, first or second-generation immigrants don't want to be actors. They have real jobs.
"The other thing I didn't know about making a TV show that I found quite confronting is you have to pick every person. 'Josh, what do you want the 7-11 worker to look like?' Do you make them Indian, or is that offensive? Or if you make them white, is it a bit like you're lying, really? What do you do?"
"But also, it's taking a job away from an Indian actor if you don't," Pacquola said.
"What answer is not offensive?" Thomas pondered, prompting an interjection from McGregor acknowledging the all-white panel: "We're probably not going to come to the answer with this panel."
Community and Rick And Morty creator Harmon then spoke about efforts in Hollywood to make TV writers rooms more diverse, before Thomas interrupted.
"I feel like I just tried to say this and they thought it was racist, so I love that you're doubling down on it … Finding people who have been given the same opportunities to be great at acting is really hard. None of the other shows are hiring people that aren't white. Finding an experienced actor that's not white is really hard. You find yourself in a situation where you want to be more diverse, but this person doesn't have as much experience as this person, and then it's hard to know what to do, because you don't want to be favouring people when they're not going to do a good job."
"In the states, the answer is you have to look harder," Harmon said.
The clip sparked an immediate reaction among those seeing it for the first time online:
Josh Thomas, with no acting experience, wrote himself the lead role in his show and cast his white friends (also not actors) in the same show. But ok sure people (of colour) should only be hired if they come with extensive experience!!!!— Brodie Lancaster (@brodielancaster) June 15, 2020
Josh Thomas: how can I, an inexperienced white actor who got to make my own show and who cast another inexperienced white actor in said show, possibly cast an inexperienced black/brown/Asian actor ¯\_(ツ)_/¯— Imperator ACAB 💜🤍🖤 (@imperatorelan) June 15, 2020
All blackfullas can stay home today. Josh Thomas has organised for your jobs to be given to “more talented” white people.— 🤦🏽♂️ (@BundjalungBud) June 15, 2020
The reason that Josh Thomas video is so disturbing is that people we think are on our side are not. White moderates are more dangerous than outright racists.— Michelle Law (@ms_michellelaw) June 15, 2020
God that Josh Thomas clip. The panel itself was bound to be a mess when talking about diversity but the way he ignored Dan Harmon's points about the obstacles for minorities to become writers.— Antifa for life (@misskylie77) June 15, 2020
going to drop my application to 7 Eleven cause Josh Thomas thinks us ethincs have no other skills and experience 😎— mayank (@mayannkk) June 15, 2020
I absolutely love Josh Thomas’s new show Please Cancel Me— Whispering Boba (@Deyterkmahjerb) June 15, 2020
I hate the racism of Josh Thomas here, but also the arrogant way he undermines working at 7/11 like that isn’t a legitimate job held by many people trying to feed their families. If anything corona virus has made me appreciate these workers a lot more. Just gross. https://t.co/ZFIsrxHNEs— Niccy T (@NicReality) June 15, 2020
Others came forward to say they were in attendance at the event:
"Dude I can absolutely confirm this. I saw it live, it was a total s**t show even then!" replied comedian and actor Nina Oyama.
Actor Johnny Lahoud shared a Facebook status he'd written in December 2016, immediately after walking out of the audience for the panel session in disgust over Thomas' comments.
As the clip spread, Thomas issued a Notes app apology, saying he was being a "really dumb, illogical, insensitive idiot".
"I'm super ashamed of the comments I made, and would like to apologise," he wrote.
"The answers I offered in this clip are in no way constructive or correct. I am committed to doing better."
Originally published as Josh Thomas 'ashamed' by resurfaced clip