Modern Australia is under the microscope on Nazeem Hussain’s new show, and no pocket of the community is out of bounds.
After reaching cult status with Legally Brown on SBS, the comedian has moved to commercial TV with his latest outing, Orange is the New Brown, on Seven.
The sketch series includes an ensemble cast of the country’s most hilarious names, like Urzila Carlson, Becky Lucas and Matt Okine.
There are also a bunch of cameos from popular performers not usually associated with the comedy circuit, including Kat Stewart, Claudia Karvan, Tim Minchin, Gary Sweet, Firass Dirani and Sigrid Thornton.
It makes for a melting pot of scenes that explore race, politics, pop culture and life in modern Australia — delivered fast and furious, according to Hussain.
“We have really crammed the sketches in — in the first episode, there are 12 or 13,” he says.
“We filmed about 70 sketches this season, so there are a lot of ideas in there about contemporary Australia. Anything that made us laugh in the writer’s room made it in. Some things are really smart, while others are stupid but funny.”
Hussain says coming up with so many rapid-fire scenarios becomes like a muscle.
“The more you do it, the better you get at coming up with ideas,” he says.
“And there were other writers in the room and comedians who would come in, and then the special guests would come up with ideas too.
“In Australia, we have some of the best comedians in the world, so if we just trust each other in a safe space, we can come up with more ideas than we could ever use.”
Some of Hussain’s favourite sketches are a Real Housewives-type melodrama set in a prison, a Wiggles spoof with Minchin and a game of charades with racial stereotypes, but he says the show isn’t out to be controversial.
“I think what I have found with jokes about issues or race politics or whatever is that Australians don’t like those ideas rammed down their throats,” he says.
“The best way to get jokes out there about that kind of thing is that it has to be funny.
“We wanted to make the funniest show possible, and if issues come up through those sketches, then they would be more incidental. I think that is the best way for a mainstream audience to consume comedy that may or may not have a message.
“I think Channel 7 recognised that people are interested in comedy that reflects life in contemporary Australia. Australians love to make fun of anything — there is nothing out of bounds.
Australians love to make fun of anything — there is nothing out of bounds.
“Whether it is something that is edgy, I don’t know. I think it reflects actual conversations in the community and everyday life. That is what good comedy should be — it’s relatable and you go ‘oh my god, I do that’.”
While Hussain is fronting the show, he emphasises it was truly an ensemble effort.
He says his relationships with other comedians have grown over the years, making for a collaborative working environment where they feel comfortable to share ideas.
And he suggests watching out for some up-and-coming comics on the show you may not expect.
“It’s a crazy cast,” Hussain says.
“I remember at the end of each day when we were filming with people from these great Australian dramas, we would have conversations like ‘why haven’t we seen Kat Stewart or Claudia Karvan or Gary Sweet or whatever do comedy before?’, because they are insanely funny. It will be a surprise for people to see how good they are, and it is quite threatening for a comedian.”
Orange is the New Brown premieres on November 8 at 8.30pm on Seven/GWN7.