“When we have so much to be sad about, comedy is an escape from reality”: Interview with Nazeem Hussain

Nazeem Hussain is an Australian with Sri Lankan roots. He comes from a home of three kids, whereof two sisters. As the only boy Nazeem admits he is just a little bit spoiled or rather well-loved. Or as he puts it: “You get special treatments, and everybody is jealous of you, we know we are spoiled and we just don’t want to say it. That is what comes with privilege.” Nazeem studied law and science, he majored in science, pharmacology and physiology. But you may know him better as the comedian.

A day out of Nazeem’s life

Nazeem explains how he starts his day with a prayer, as a Muslim he gets up to pray fajr. Then he goes back to sleep and wakes up around the time that most people wake up. “Being a comedian, there is no set schedule. Completely different to how my life used to be when I was in tax consulting.” Nazeem is working on his TV show in Australia, so he might go to production meetings, go filming or write for the day. He explains how he works around the schedule of his stand-up, which most of the time takes place in the late evening. “Being a comedian, you can be doing a whole lot of things or sometimes you can be doing nothing.”

Writing jokes

Writing jokes for Nazeem is not a process where you literally are sitting down and just start writing them. He says it’s more a way of getting inspired by a certain life experience, whether it’s small or big, which he bases his jokes on. “I write the clearest when I’m angry or frustrated at something. Comedy writes itself quicker when I need to get something of my chest than if I think about a topic and say ‘hey I need to write something funny about that.’”

Being a comedian isn’t always as fancy as it seems. “I think you need to be a little bit cocky, a little bit arrogant to present yourself as a comedian,” Nazeem explains. But besides that, he mentions that he started comedy just around members of the community. Seeing his community laugh makes him happier than anything. “Especially when we have so much to be sad about, comedy is like almost a relief, an escape from our reality. Or it is a way of looking at circumstances in a more positive way, a way that makes us empowered.”

Q&A with Nazeem

If you could change anything in this world, what would it be?

“Get rid of white people. Just getting rid of white people just for a month. And see what happens to the rest of the world. Maybe things would become amazing and then white people could re-enter the world. Or maybe things would just fall apart, but at least we need to experiment with that idea. Just to see what happens.

You mean something hunger games-like?
“More like a holiday, or a resort where people just can enjoy themselves, all expenses paid for by Brown, Black and Asian people around the world. We just want to see how we will survive without your influence and dominance. Maybe things would be better. Just for a month.”

You travel a lot. Have you noticed any differences in the way you feel and how you are treated in contrast to Australia?

“When I landed in France, I had a big stare-off with the guy at customs, as he looked at my middle name and my surname, which is Mohamed Hussain. I think France is a very different place now, post Charlie Hebdo. I think people are really paranoid about Muslim migration. Europe is a strange place. Like Muslim or non-Muslim, the tension is insane. I think being Muslim in Europe is very interesting. I don’t know what this place is going to look like in 5 or 10 years. Not sure if I want to know. When I went to Japan a couple of weeks ago, I found that that was a very comfortable experience. There is no hysteria there about Muslims or Islam. Indonesia is a very nice place, Hong Kong as well. Places that don’t have Western culture infused, those are more comfortable places to be brown and to be Muslim.”

Twitter Questions

@Lindasatia asks: Who is your wife?
“So I got married a week ago. My wife is half Irish and half South African. So there is that.”

@LuxAdams‬ asks: Can you ask him what the difference is between Nazeem and Waleed Aly?‬

“In Australia we pretty much don’t have any brown or Muslim people on TV. Waleed Aly and I are pretty much the only ones. So he joined The Project, which is a prime time television show and he’s the first Muslim to co-host a live show like that. Fairfax Media wrote an article about it and in the article they had mistaken me for Waleed and put my picture in the article stating, “Waleed Aly joins The Project”. They said that my picture was saved wrongly with Waleed’s name. I just think it’s funny how they can mix up 2 brown guys in the whole of Australian Television. It’s not like we are with so many like white people.”

Written by Samira Abid

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Samira Abid is 19 years old and is studying Communication Management. She likes taking photographs, reading and learning new languages. When she has some time off, travelling is her way of filling the void.