July 2015

The Nation Reviewed

Leaping Lefers

By Antoni Jach
What’s next for the entrepreneurial Josh Lefers?

In September, Josh Lefers is going to jump out of a plane naked (apart from a parachute) and land somewhere in New York.

“Why naked?” I ask him when we meet in Melbourne.

“Because we come into this world naked,” he replies. “We start literally with nothing.”

He might be uncomfortable; it will, after all, be extremely cold at high altitude. At the very least he should be wearing his stock-in-trade rose-gold Buscemi sneakers, which Pamela Anderson wanted to buy from him last April when they were at Stella McCartney’s party together in LA. While there, a former Beatle (yes, it was Paul) sat next to Lefers and started chatting before they all hit the dance floor.

Lefers will be parachuting with his business partner and acting buddy Stephen Wools. The duo has created two reality comedy TV series (screened on Channel V): Josh & Steve’s 8 Ball and Free Sh!t Men. The latter sees them asking people for free stuff (the titular “free shit”). In the ten-episode first season, broadcast in 2011, they asked for everything from free tattoos to a free car, from a free butler to a free racehorse; finally, they asked for a free house, and (spoiler alert) they got one.

The second season of Free Sh!t Men is being filmed in the US later this year. One of the goals is to end up with a free island paradise. Lefers explains the philosophy behind the series with typical alacrity: “I want to show people that you can get everything you ever need or dreamed of just by asking the world. People look after people … Nobody owes you anything, but if you ask enough people and in the right way …

“The show is structured like Maslow’s Pyramid of Needs … We start naked, jumping from a plane, [and] ask for food, clothes and accommodation.”

Having achieved the bare minimum for survival, “then you can start going after your dreams: a free private island, a free car. And the third part is about helping other people obtain their goals.”

The second season of Free Sh!t Men is a co-production between Lefers and Wools’ Big Dog Creative and Laura Waters’ Princess Pictures. “It’s not just about a selfish person wanting free things,” says Waters, who produced all of Chris Lilley’s TV series, “but also about the idea of helping people who actually need free things, i.e. people who are struggling with money.

“We’re more comfortable donating to ambitious people than supporting people who struggle.”

Not from a wealthy family, Lefers supported himself through his studies at the University of Melbourne by stripping for Mandate Male Review on weekends. “My thesis was ‘A Comparative Study of Utilitarian Notions of The Common Good in Machiavelli’s The Prince and Thomas More’s Utopia’. That was my history thesis, not my stripping routine.”

Lefers is an unstoppable ball of energy. Although he has had success in entertainment, he is best known as an entrepreneur. The 37-year-old is the owner, or co-owner, of about 18 companies. (“The number changes on a daily basis.”) He takes huge financial risks, expects to succeed and mainly does. From his perspective, more is more.

“The aim,” says Lefers, “is to enjoy the perception of the reality you think you’ve created.”

His companies include the advertising agency Big Dog Creative and the alcohol company East Ninth Brewing. Lefers’ other ventures include the Pawn & Co. bar in Melbourne’s Prahran and the Grand Trailer Park Taverna in the CBD. In addition, his three-storey Village of Bees wellness centre in St Kilda is scheduled to open later this year.

Lefers is also working on a second TV series, once again with Waters as co-producer. In The Campaigners, Lefers will run for mayor of a soon-to-be-revealed inner-city municipality of Melbourne.

“It’s real-life satire,” he says. “If normal politicians are willing to kiss a baby to get into power, well, I’m willing to kiss a thousand babies.”

The tagline for the show is “Small Politics, Big Personalities”, and raw footage from the pro–gay rights episode features Lefers and ex-Jackass star Bam Margera pashing in the name of social progress.

“The premise we have been working from,” says Lefers, “is what if I become the most viewed local candidate in the history of Australia through running an ostentatious presidential-sized campaign on local council issues.”

In the process, The Campaigners will aim to expose “the inadequacies of a system that doesn’t actually want to get anything done”, as well as tackling broader social issues. Lefers cites legalising cannabis and refugees’ rights as other targets for action.

One of the episodes planned for the show features Lefers and Wools going on a quest to find an ideal campaign manager. Does Lefers have someone in mind?

“I’m going after Bob Hawke.”

“Why Bob?”

“Because he can scull a yard glass. They’re the best credentials I have seen from any Australian politician.”

As if he isn’t doing enough already, Lefers has also been working as the Nice Events Creative Producer for Nickelodeon’s Slimefest (billed as a “kids and families pop and slime event”). In addition, he and Wools are developing other projects with Viacom in Australia. General Manager Ben Richardson says, “With his unique view of the world, Josh Lefers has the makings of the next Roald Dahl.” Lefers has also written a novel (as yet unpublished) for adults called The Man Who Walked Backwards into Happiness.

“When people ask me what Josh does,” says Lefers’ girlfriend, actress Sarah Roberts (Felony), “I find it so hard to answer, because he really just does everything. He doesn’t take no for an answer, he just hears the yes in everything.”

Antoni Jach

Antoni Jach is the author of three novels. His recent artist’s book is Faded World: Fragments from the Description de l’Egypte.

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