Fear Of A Brown Planet
Show type: Melbourne 2008
Stand-up comedy about all the things you are scared to think about: Islam, race relations, sedition, and the War on Terror.
After a sold-out extended season at the Melbourne Fringe Festival 2007, two young Australian Muslim comedians are coming to shock and awe audiences with their dark humour in a bold one-hour stand-up comedy show that is a timely antidote to today's culture of paranoia.
Featuring Nazeem Hussain and Aamer Rahman.
There’s clearly a huge, unfilled demand for Muslim comedians – take as proof the success of the Allah Made Me Funny tour of the US and UK, the hype surrounding Shazia Mirza, and, indeed, the sell-out audience at this Melbourne two-hander. It’s surely a combination of Muslims eager to experience comedy from their own perspective, plus liberal arts-goers wanting to hear a different cultural voice.
The problem is that so keen is this demand that any emerging talent is immediately seized upon, catapulted into the spotlight before they have a chance to become expert at their craft. This time last year, Aamer Rahman and Nazeem Hussain were taking part in new act competitions. Now they’re filling a decent-sized festival venue and garnering gushing four-and-a-half star reviews from Melbourne’s newspapers.
But behind the hype, it’s patently clear these are two inexperienced comedians, maybe with potential, but a long way from offering one of the best shows around.
Hussain, especially, seems very raw. Wide-eyed and likeable, he engenders a nice atmosphere for those ‘who want to laugh at brown people without feeling guilty or racist’.
But his material is left wanting. Most of the gags revolve around the idea of Muslims as terrorists – that simply using ‘…with a bomb’ is somehow a punchline. In some ways it’s reclaiming the crude stereotype, but endlessly repeating the same sort of line makes for bland comedy, and rather panders to that idiotic image he’s trying to undermine. Its reminiscent of black British comedians of the 70s dealing with hecklers by threatening to ‘move in next door’, so getting a laugh from the bigots in the audience.
Aside from this, he mocks the illogical fear isolated residents of nondescript towns have of becoming Al Qaeda targets, likens women in veils to ninjas and sings Tie Me Kangaroo Down Sport in a comedy Indian accent. All very unremarkable, Route One, material that countless comics – brown or white – are performing everywhere.
He clumsily links lots of material back to one particular routine, about a teenager whose house party from hell made the news after police dispersed the 500 or so revellers, but it doesn’t really work the first time, let alone all the contrived callbacks.
He’s the sort of act that gets as many claps as laughs – the audience indicating more that they are on his side, than find the material genuinely funny. I feel the same way – he’s got a nice innate style but the writing and the stagecraft leave his inexperience very exposed.
Rahman, on the other hand, has more of an edge to him, without get stuck in the rut of the ‘suicide bomber’ obsessions of his predecessor.
Instead, his routine is part personal – mostly about being brought up a nerd in which his skin tone plays no part – combined with intelligent observations about how his religion is perceived that demonstrate astute social politics.
He has a genuine skill of launching into routines with a highly-charged line or two that demand you sit up and pay attention. He does, however, sometimes struggle to keep up the momentum of these forceful statements up with the ensuing material, and has a tendency to over-explain things once the audience is already ahead of him. Inexperience, again, is at play.
Although he’s far from the finished product, there is a lot of promise here. Let’s hope he’s given the time to develop it.
Reviewed by: Steve Bennett