Since ditching his gig as a tax consultant and breaking into the Melbourne stand-up comedy scene, Nazeem Hussain’s career has been quite a ride.
He was a serial pest on Foxtel’s Balls of Steel, starred in the SBS comedy series Legally Brown and in 2017 gained wider fame lasting 45 days on Ten’s I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here.
Ahead of the premiere of his sketch show Orange is the New Brown (Seven, Thursday, November 8, 8.30pm), The New Daily took the new dad, 32, for a stomach-churning spin on the Star of the Show Ferris Wheel at Sydney’s Darling Harbour.
Hussain’s mission: In the course of one lap of the mega-ride, to describe the highs and lows of his career and life.
What can we expect from Orange is the New Brown?
It’s a sketch show with pretty crazy special guests [looks down]. This is terrifying, isn’t it?
A little. How many “Brown” titles did you brainstorm?
Hundreds. Chocolate City, Brownton Abbey, Brown and Out…
How did you get people like Kat Stewart, Tim Minchin and Claudia Karvan on board?
We picked people who we thought could do comedy but just never really get the chance. They were all so naturally funny, it kind of annoyed me. They’d all call into the writers room to chat about the script or suggest new lines. Even on the day, they would go into the wardrobe room and put on different wigs and try out accents. They loved just playing around.
Sigrid Thornton [who plays a frisky fertility doctor] is a highlight…
She was unbelievable. Her character was mostly her idea. It was so hard to film that sketch because everyone was laughing. Some of the footage we couldn’t use because the camera was shaking.
What makes you laugh?
I’m a sympathetic person, but I laugh in people’s faces when bad stuff happens. I find serious things funny. I’m really bad at formal events because my brain always tells me to do the thing you’re not supposed to do.
If you weren’t a comedian, what would you be doing?
I’d probably be an Uber driver. Join my Muslim brothers.
I would like to do a sitcom at some point. I’ve got a few ideas cooking.
Did you ever find yourself in real danger filming Balls of Steel?
I was pretending to be a pub bouncer and I made a guy hop while reciting the alphabet forwards and backwards. He did it, so I said, ‘OK buddy, let’s go A to K again.’ He got to ‘F’ and punched me in the face. I don’t know now if I’d do that reckless stuff now.
How are you finding fatherhood [son Eesa with wife Shaheeda Abdulla was born in April]?
People talk about how tired you are, and it’s true, but more than anything, it’s like having a little mate.
What about you would surprise people?
I’m an introvert. I walk around with noise-cancelling headphones so I’m in my own head.
What were you like as a kid?
All my school reports said, ‘Nazeem has good grades but is easily distracted and distracts others’. My older sister is a stay-at-home mum now but she’s a radiation therapist and my younger sister is a lawyer. They have normal jobs. My parents migrated from Sri Lanka in the ’70s. My job is not what you’re supposed to do as a migrant kid. [Pause] Are you feeling a bit weird? I’m not feeling so great.
I’m fine. How do you think your reality TV stint changed things?
People got to know me as an individual. Before there’s a bit of that, ‘What’s this guy trying to get at? Do I trust him?’ Now I don’t feel like I have to justify myself as much. I get straight to the jokes.