In Australia, Louis Theroux has always been the beloved award-winning film and documentary maker. Partly due to his endearing forthrightness, but mostly due to the winsome way he inserts himself in his work.

What some of us perhaps didn’t know, until this ‘Without Limits’ live tour of Australia and New Zealand that is, is that he’s unexpectedly hilarious.

Theroux opened his first of three Sydney shows at the State Theatre last night with a reading from his book, the aptly titled Gotta Get Theroux This.

“When I do films I like to get involved,” he said after reading an extract about taking part in a Sensual Eating Party with polyamorists in Oregon. Actually he didn’t read it, he recited it, he didn’t really need the book.

louis theroux sensual eating party
Louis at a Sensual Eating Party

After television and radio personality Julia Zemiro joined him onstage, Theroux’s stage presence went from commanding yet charming, to ‘cross your legs or you’ll pee’ hilarious.

Through visuals and anecdotes of his wild adventures with the BBC and beyond, Theroux and Zemiro took us behind the scenes of his orgy scene, him screaming during a dynamic meditation, his audition for a production on a Norwegian cruise liner (“It turns out that’s a very sought after gig”) and the time he entered the world of professional wrestling, where he was given the name Waldo.

Now 49-years-old, Theroux still pushes the boundaries of traditional journalism – just read up on his latest documentary Love Without Limits or his next instalment on the Westboro Baptist Church – but as Zemiro points out, that’s one of his rules of engagement.

Theroux discussed the gay porn film he made in 1997, which was originally called Snow Bound but was changed to Take a Peak. He played the park ranger.

Louis Theroux as 'Park Ranger' in gay porn
Louis Theroux as ‘Park Ranger’ in Take a Peak

“He doesn’t have a lot of screen time but he kind of holds the whole thing together,” he said earnestly. “It’s a non sex role”.

The film turned up in his local video store when he was living in New York.

For that particular Weird Weekends episode, simply titled Porn, Theroux had a nude photoshoot done. One picture was even shown on the big screen at the State Theatre: “I’m not sure we blurred that enough,” he quipped.

You get a sense Theroux is aware of the nonsensical sides to his work, especially regarding his deep involvement. However what’s most clear is the fact that the humour he finds in serious subjects is in no way condescending or offensive. In fact, it builds a kind of unmatched rapport with those involved.

Watch: Louis Theroux: Extreme Love – Dementia

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Without giving too much away for those who are still yet to catch the ‘Without Limits’ show, it must be said the show is full of surprises. From an impromptu rap battle where Theroux revives his teenage alter-ego King Lou-E, to roaming mic interviews with the crowd (props to the two investigative journalists from ABC who tried to interview him), to heartfelt discussion about his wife and three sons, Theroux is so much more than the man who explains culture.

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Theroux closed the evening with a monologue on the Westboro Baptist Church, AKA America’s most hated family. The theatre went dark and when the lights came up, Theroux and Zemiro had been joined by Megan Phelps-Roper. Phelps-Roper had left the Westboro Baptist Church in 2013, started a new life and written the book Unfollow: A Memoir of Loving and Leaving the Westboro Baptist Church.

She said her doubt after spending all of her conscious life learning doctrines and picketing her own education institutions began with Twitter, which illuminated the inconsistencies in her beliefs.

“The internet was really amazing because it broke down barriers in a lot of ways,” she said.

Megan Phelps Roper westboro
Megan Phelps Roper. Credit Michelle Wray

After the screening of Theroux’s most recent interview with her mother, Megan said while her family are known for correcting their feelings to make them feel untouchable and are painted in the press as far removed from reality, Theroux offered something in his coverage she found surprising:

“You have a profound way to humanise my family, in a way that no one else has. It’s just stunning.”

In reality, as Theroux noted, weirdness is intrinsic to the human condition and being honest about our idiosyncrasies is the foundation for understanding.

If you watch Louis Theroux documentaries to understand the weirdness of human condition then you’ll delight in his live show’s ability to show Theroux as equally odd, just like us.

FINAL TOUR DATES

Wednesday 15th January
Brisbane, Brisbane Convention Centre

Thursday 16th January
Canberra, Royal Theatre

Friday 17th January

Sydney, State Theatre

Saturday 18th January

Sydney, State Theatre *2 shows: 3pm & 7.30pm

Sunday 19th January
Melbourne, Plenary Theatre *2 shows: 1pm & 6pm

LOUIS THEROUX WITHOUT LIMITS
Tickets on sale now via www.louistherouxliveonstage.com