"I genuinely managed to bargain it down to $750, I said I was a poor Indian student."
It has been a big year for Nazeem Hussain. His debut solo comedy show sold out around Australian and Europe, he was nominated for a prestigious Helpmann Award and a Logie for his smash-hit SBS show Legally Brown and his now public profile has got him into some interesting situations. "I've just realised in the last couple of years I've had lots of confrontations," he says. "People come up to you on the street and they can be drunk. I think people just want to take on public figures in a weird way.
"I've started boxing basically as a result of that," he laughs. "I've had one session with this guy, the trainer calls him 'crazy John'. He actually is a crazy guy. He talks to himself and when he punches, he says 'punch, punch, punch'. He has this tattoo of the Australian flag and it has the words 'love it or leave it' on it. I took a photo of it.
"Then he said 'Nazeem what do you do for a living?' and I didn't feel like I could elaborate and then the trainer goes 'he's a stand-up comedian' and then he goes 'I wanna come to one of your shows' and I said 'Ah it's all booked out' and he said 'what do you joke about?' and I said 'just about how much I love Australia' and he said 'Ah awesome, awesome, I'm gonna YouTube you!'. So I haven't gone back since. I'm a bit scared I'm gonna see that guy and he's gonna punch my lights out."
"He has this tattoo of the Australian flag and it has the words 'love it or leave it' on it. I took a photo of it."
Hussain was lucky he didn't get his lights punched out on a recent trip to Japan where he was mugged. "I genuinely managed to bargain it down to $750, I said I was a poor Indian student," he says of the situation. "The thing that really annoyed me is that in the restaurant there was another guy who was getting mugged too, a white American guy, and he only got charged $990… when he went to leave, all these guys in suits came out to stop him and they grabbed him. I don't know what happened to him. They put me in a taxi and sent me straight back to the hotel."
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Luckily, there were some positives in 2015 to outweigh the negatives — Hussain performed his first ever stand-up show in Sri Lanka and it was "crazy" to say the least. "They've got a really fresh stand-up scene where there's a couple young guys just doing stuff in a café but nothing like a stand-up comedy concert," he says. "The Prime Minister's wife attended. There was a VIP section. I got invited to the Prime Minister's house afterwards."
With tickets priced between $20-$80 and a show in a 3000 capacity venue, it's not surprising Hussain was a little nervous. "They had these huge screens just projecting into the crowd and it kept flashing up with 'Nazeem Hussain' and then the next slide would say 'stand-up comedy has never been so good'. They had this marching band come out and five tuk-tuks and so everyone was on their feet by the time I started and I was like 'man please just relax, let's start with no expectations'."
Hussain is excited to be back in Australia for his new stand-up show Hussain In The Membrane without the marching band and "ridiculous hype". "Yeah I feel like I'm a lot more comfortable doing that," he says, laughing. Aside from that, he's working on two new television projects, which he can't say too much about just yet. "It'll be maybe on SBS or maybe on another network," he says. "I actually don't really know what we're allowed to say!"