Nazeem Hussain brings Legally Brown to Edinburgh as a stand up show, but back home in Australia, it's familiar as the title of the TV comedy he created and hosts. This is the first time he's here performing on his own – last time it was as part of political comedy duo Fear of a Brown Planet.
Themes of racism and Islamophobia are central and prevalent throughout this engaging set. Charm and charisma are great tools in a comic's utility belt, and Hussain has plenty of both. His gaze at the audience is direct and involving as he invites us into his world. There's a confident Aussie swagger in his style, with only a hint of self-deprecation – mainly (and fondly) aimed at his Sri Lankan heritage.
This comedian has some good 'characters' in his repertoire – mostly inspired by his Sri Lankan family members. In particular, he frequently takes off his mother in a teasing but affectionate manner. He enjoys bantering with his audience and coped ably both with some slightly bizarre heckles from one audience member, and the presence of a particularly young person on the front row (which led to a charming little bit of brotherly interaction between the two). I would imagine there's little that would throw this comedian off balance – there's a sense that he has full control of the room at all times.
For me, this show wasn't side-splitting comedy, but it was nonetheless a funny and very enjoyable hour. Hussain's unusual and well-told stories offer something a little bit different: it's certainly not every comic who has the kind of counter-terrorism-induced experiences that he does to draw on.
His material takes a swipe at atheists and ISIS and there are regular gags and puns on terrorism and extremism; not exactly 'safe' material, and the kind of thing that could have people shifting uncomfortably in their seats. However, he manages to get away with a lot, with his cheeky, warm persona enabling him to deliver material that’s deceptively close to the bone.
Yet somehow, it all remains very jovial and cheery. Though I felt the choice of joke for the ending of the show could have been stronger, it doesn't detract from a good and promising solo Edinburgh Fringe debut.