Fear of a Brown Planet – review

Thursday, September 20 2012

Aussie duo Nazeem Hussain and Amer Rahman, aka Fear of a Brown Planet, impress at Soho Theatre

Fear of a Brown Planet

Yay, an hour of stand-up comedy about race! There's so much scope for cock-up when it comes to turning race into funnies, that it's a wonder anyone bothers to try. But Nazeem Hussain (left) and Amer Rahman steer a steady course through comedy's most pock-marked minefield with 30 minutes each of classy jokes.

Notably, they both play it cool. This is not an angry show. Outspoken at times, yes, (moreso Rahman than Hussain), but first and foremost it's laid back. Hussain in particular is a master of understatement, his unassuming style allowing his jokes to really sneak up on you. He also plays it safe the more than his colleague, and even slips in an observational routine, about Bollywood hero Amitabh Bachchan (a rare moment in the night where the crowd's reaction divided along ethnic lines, given white people tend not to know who Bachchan is). But while he does touch on some potentially clichéd subjects – such as working in a call centre, the lack of white film villains, and his dislike for football – the quality of the gags always justifies it.

His more opinionated and personal his routines get, the stronger his comedy gets. His rant about footie-obsessed Australians is a brilliant, Family Guy-esque sledgehammer, and his material on how Indians are targeted in Melbourne is interesting as well as funny and could have been mined more (ditto his joke about the juvenility of Indian-Pakistani relations).

Rahman's measured hostility gives the night a bit of edge that an hour of Hussain would have lacked. His native Australia, Barack Obama and Prince Harry are his biggest targets, mostly on the grounds of race, although what pisses him off most tonight is the girl about two rows in who wants a chat with both comics, but in fact disrupts their flow. As she attempts to explain something about the "missiles on top of council estates" Olympic scandal, he shouts her down.

Other than this flashpoint, his is a mellow, withering wit, and although the jokes are variable in standard, his timing is so good that every one gets a perfect landing. His Obama and "Michael Jackson was a brown man" routines in particular are brilliant.

He investigates his own racism, and dismisses it (I thought illogically) in his justifications for why he would never date a white girl (this was the only uncomfortable moment of the night for me as a white audience member), but confesses straight-up to being racist when he is going through customs, in a quality final routine that finishes the night on a high.

The pair could easily have pandered more to their predominantly brown audience a lot more, instead they have created something with wider appeal without diluting the overall effect. It's unlikely you'll agree with everything they say, but your laughter is virtually guaranteed.

4 stars

Fear of a Brown Planet is on at the Soho Theatre until Saturday, September 22, tickets are only available for the extra shows at 9.15pm

Review written by Paul Fleckney


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