Hussain in the Membrane is not as predominated by issues of cultural tension as some of Nazeem Hussain’s previous comedic ventures, such as the series of Fear of a Brown Planet shows he has performed with with long-standing collaborator Aamer Rahman and his SBS comedy program Legally Brown.
Hussain certainly does hone in on Australian race-relations in the astute observational comedy that is Hussain in the Membrane, but he also tells us stories about his everyday life. For example, he recounts the hellish experiences he has had as a landlord of a property located in a down-at-heel area of Melbourne. He also illuminates us on his opinions about various Australian flora and fauna – he does a mad good impression of an incontinent possum.
Some of the audience were reluctant to laugh at sections of the show. There was a sense that, although it is perfectly well for Hussain to poke fun at different racial stereotypes, it might be culturally insensitive to laugh along with him when, for example, he says that the Japanese are a very polite group of the people. But Hussain seems to revel in the discomfort of the audience; it only seems to fuel the frenetic energy he brings to the stage.
Given the sea of predominantly white male stand-up comics that Australia has to offer, Nazeem Hussain stands out. He is offering us something different. With an insider's perspective on what it is like to be a believing Muslim in modern day Australia, he offers a unique and often challenging comedic perspective to the people who come to see him. We need more Australian comedians like Hussain. In these increasingly reactionary political times, we need comedic public figures who are able to get all kinds of Australians sitting together with each other in a sweaty festival tent, laughing at the colossal stupidity of Southern Cross tattoos.
Hussain in the Membrane will be running until March 6