Nazeem Hussain – Legally Brown

Standup is often at its best when it is possible to discern a great deal of the performer in their material. Nazeem Hussain’s Legally Brown is one such show, drawing on his experiences of the difficulties facing a modern Muslim living and working in Australia and the West. From his network’s schedule allowing time for his regular airport interrogations to dealing with the United Patriots Front, Hussain’s life is testament to the preposterous circus to which so many ordinary citizens are still needlessly subjected.

Hussain topples preconceptions and highlights social ills not with anger — which is too often dismissed by detractors — but with razor-sharp humour and a playful smile.

His experiences are by no means atypical. They are so ordinary, in fact, that he and his friends often (believably) prank call each other as the Australian Security Intelligence Organisation. Hussain is legally allowed to be brown, but lives his life constantly evaluated as a threat, because of melanin levels differing to the Australian norm. Paying such a price for one’s ethnicity or faith remains a depressingly persistent part of our society.

Hussain, however, is by no means depressed; he’s adamantly upbeat, delivering his material with an utterly infectious sense of goodwill, and heaps of charisma. Even when not every joke landed as expected, Hussain recovered with good grace and charm, with excellent improv filling the void when the planned jokes didn’t quite work. Some of his material, too, almost risks being a little hackneyed: airport detainments and parents expecting high grades are oft-traversed ground for Muslim comics; but Hussain’s energetic storytelling and deliciously sardonic wit means he still found plenty of unexploited entertainment to mine from those old seams.

Current theories about laughter suggest that we laugh when surprised — when we learn that something isn’t what we expected it to be. Perhaps there’s no more fitting vehicle for tackling ignorance, for expanding minds and encouraging tolerance, than comedy. Legally Brown very much works towards this end, as Hussain topples preconceptions and highlights social ills not with anger — which is too often dismissed by detractors — but with razor-sharp humour and a playful smile.

Reviews by Jamie P Robson

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Performances

Location

The Blurb

With sell-out tours across Australia, NZ and London, Nazeem makes his Fringe solo debut with incisive political, cultural observations about modern life. He hopes you can make it. 'Hussain's cheerful manner belies the acuity of his observation' (Guardian).