Pushing the limits onstage is as fun as it gets for Nazeem Hussain. But how does he know when a joke’s gone too far?
“It’s the silence!” he says.
This September, the powerhouse comedian will push it to the limit at the Vanguard in Sydney for a night of taboo-smashing comedy at The Kraken Black Spiced Rum Presents: The Darkest Show. It’ll be a night of daring jokes, spicy zingers and dark humour, to match the daring spice, dark flavours and rich lore of the smooth, aromatic spirit.
According to Hussain, the dark humour is all in a day’s work for most comedians.
“Better comedians are able to extinguish that tension with a punchline. But if you hang out backstage with comedians, there are really no limits to the sorts of things we’ll joke about. The challenge is trying to figure out what’s acceptable for normal society.”
So, you can probably imagine what the backstage atmosphere will be like at this one: Australian comedy queen Becky Lucas will be out there ripping off one-liners with Luke Heggie, who’s “harsh but fair shows about idiots” have landed him on local screens and the world stage.
Not only will it be a chance to catch three of the country’s biggest comedians play in a one-off setting, Hussain reckons everyone will be playing hotter than usual on the night.
“The night is explicitly supporting the idea of dangerous comedy, so you don’t need to do the stuff that’s softer and fluffier to win an audience over,” he says. “I’m just going to come out with material I’d normally shove towards the end of the show. I’m just going to trust – and hope – the audience is ready from the get-go.”
For anyone who’s seen Hussain skewer race, politics and Aussie stereotypes in his sketch series Orange Is The New Brown, you’d know how far he’s willing to go for a laugh. But Hussain reckons older comics raging against wokeness need to “harden up”.
“It’s more a complaint about not wanting to get with the times, and clinging to outdated ideas. There’s always going to be an audience for your ideas. But if you’re not willing to be exposed to people who disagree with you, that’s a different conversation,” he says.
Hussain is best-known from TV and says the “shitting-yourself-nervousness” of standup is a totally different beast.
“With TV, it’s edited and you just hit play and people watch it … with standup you’ve got to be performing, you hope the audience is gonna like you. But you know, that’s the challenge of the job for just one hour of your night. The rest of the day we don’t do shit,” he laughs.
“But it’s just words on stage. Everyone is there for a good time more than anything. Laughing at stuff that ordinarily makes us sad. I think Australians do that pretty well.”
The Kraken Presents: The Darkest Show is at The Vanguard, Newtown, on Wednesday September 13, 2023. See more information and get tickets.
This article is produced by Broadsheet in partnership with The Kraken Black Spiced Rum.