Nazeem Hussain on being a certified celebrity and tailoring his shows

By April Austen | @aprilausten

Image sourced from

Having survived the South African jungle in Channel Ten’s I’m A Celebrity, Get Me Out Of Here and a packed program of overseas performances in 2017, Australian comedian Nazeem Hussain is finally back home, bringing his new show, No Pain No Hussain, to the Melbourne International Comedy Festival.

No Pain No Hussain covers the “best parts of [his 2017] diary” – his travels, his thoughts on impending parenthood and the everyday funny situations comedians seem to find themselves in.

“I talk about some of the annoying things that happen to me that I never have a comeback for in the moment. On stage I’ve got time to come up with a punchline,” Nazeem laughs.

Nazeem premiered his show at the Adelaide Fringe in February, and has just swung by Brisbane and Canberra’s comedy festivals en route to Melbourne this week.

“People have been laughing and filling up the rooms which is really humbling. Each night I try and tailor the show to the crowd. You can’t throw the same material at different audiences each night, you have to treat them as you would people – they each have a different personality. Some audiences will laugh at one particular type of joke more than another. It becomes a bit of a choose your own adventure most nights.”

The need to adapt his performances to his crowd became even more important when Nazeem took his shows around the world.

“I’ve learnt sarcasm might not fly as well in the States; in London and the UK they might like jokes that are slightly less obvious; in Sri Lanka or China they have an emerging comedy scene, so you might have to step it out a little bit more. When I went to China, someone told me about 10 seconds before I went on stage that the majority of the audience didn’t speak English and that they won’t understand an Australian accent, so I was like ‘oh, thank you very much’ and had to adapt to that on the fly.”

Whilst the challenges are enjoyable and even help provide content for new shows, Nazeem is thrilled to be back performing in his home town where he is “completely comfortable”.

“Melbourne’s where I’m from and I definitely enjoy it the most. I don’t have to think about what Melbournians are like, I feel like I’m amongst friends – most likely because there are often lots of my friends in the crowd. Of all the cities and countries that I’ve performed in, it’s Melbourne where I can literally just be myself. It’s the most fun – I think Melbourne has this comedy festival for a reason, we know good comedy.”

Nazeem’s top four finish on I’m A Celebrity has sparked a change in the types of people in his audiences. Now, fans of commercial TV are coming to his shows in droves which will only increase when his upcoming sketch show, Orange Is The New Brown, goes to air on Channel Seven.

In the early days, Nazeem was concerned about how to please his new audiences, but over time he’s discovered the benefits of his increased celebrity status. “People really got to know me on I’m A Celebrity which means I don’t need to justify my love for Australia, I can just go straight into the punchlines and they know that I mean well.”

No Pain No Hussain is showing at The Forum Theatre Upstairs from March 29 to April 22, during which time Nazeem’s first child is due. “I’m going to be waiting for a text message while I’m on stage. I might need to run and leave, or maybe I’ll have to stay and finish the show. Maybe I’ll let the audience decide.”

“As soon as the baby’s born I’m going to be spending as much time as I can at home. No doubt once I’ve got a child I’ll start to see the world very differently. A lot of my shows are very political. I don’t know where the intersection is between baby jokes and political jokes but I’m sure I’ll find it.”

Catch Nazeem Hussain at the 2018 Melbourne International Comedy Festival! Tickets and extra info about his show available here.

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