In part two of his Conversations with Asme Fahmi, Melbourne comedian Aamer Rahman talks inspiration, achievements and hobnobbing with the rich and famous. Oh – and Ninja Turtles.
How much does your faith mean to you?
It’s the core of my life. The driving force behind everything I do, creatively, non-creatively, politically. It’s the centre of my life.
Would you say your faith shapes your comedy? Does it set up certain parameters that limits the scope of your act?
Absolutely it does. It makes me say certain things and it stops me from saying certain things – which is good, because comedy or any type of expression without parameters could lead you to saying or doing things that are unnecessary. Personally that’s what guides me, and whether I’m right or wrong that’s another issue.
How do you reconcile your faith with the seedy nature of being on the road?
I guess by not being seedy [laughs]. It’s really good to have someone like Nazeem [Hussain] with me so firstly I’m not alone – it can be really depressing and draining to tour alone. And also to have someone else with me who practices their faith to keep me in check and vice versa.
So no fancy rider requests? No banning of blue M&Ms?
It’s pretty tame, just bottles of water. I was just thinking about that today, I was putting in some rider requests for up coming shows and realised how tame we are [laughs].
What does your relationship with Nazeem mean to you?
Numerous headaches and stomach ulcers [laughs].
You seem like quite the activist, what does social activism mean to you?
I was always involved in political activities long before I started doing comedy, and I definitely try to stay engaged in things going on around me. I have always used graphics and art as a part of my political activities.
Are you worried that once your profile grows, you may have to draw back on the activism?
I would never compromise what I have to say for the sake of building a bigger audience. If my views mean that my audience will potentially remain a certain size, I’m happy with that.
What was Edinburgh like?
Edinburgh is the biggest comedy festival in the world. Between 2000 to 3000 acts are there. No one knew who we were – and on top of that it was Ramadan.
It was very difficult; it wasn’t until we got to London when we finally met people who were anticipating our shows. We weren’t planning to do a tour in London but a friend of ours organised a show in Brixton, which turned out to be massive. It was a great way to end the trip – with that show in London.
What did you think of the Australian Story piece on the ABC about yourself and Nazeem?
Overall the feedback has been so positive. I just wished they included my sister [Rasha Rahman] but it’s just been overwhelmingly positive feedback from all kinds of people who loved it, so alhamdulillah it was really good.
And what did the four star review in The Guardian mean to you?
Getting any kind of attention in Edinburgh is so hard, but getting a four star review in The Guardian – which is the make or break paper in deciding what’s hot or not — there was really nothing more we could of asked for really.
What’s been the most memorable moment/highlight of your career so far?
Hard to say…that show in London was definitely something different. In Australia, at any shows, there are always people that we know – whether they’re friends or friends of friends or whatever. But London was a completely new place and to see that many people we’ve never met who have basically only seen us on YouTube or heard about us online…for them to have come to our show and respond to it in such a crazy way, well that was phenomenal.
You seem like a Renaissance man: you’ve got the Law degree, the comedy career and you’re also a graphics designer…
[Laughs] Except that a renaissance man would excel at all these things. I’m like a jack-of-all-trades…
[Laughs] Master of none?
Yeah, exactly. There has to be another word for Renaissance man. How about ‘Renaissance Fail’? [Laughs]
What about the ‘Free Gaza’ shirts you’ve designed; I’ve seen Lupe Fiasco, Omar Offendum and The Narcicyst wear it. I think there was a picture of Lupe wearing it with Dr. Cornel West…
Yeah that was pretty cool. When Lupe came to Melbourne, it was during the 2009 Gaza war and a lot of people turned up in those T-shirts. Someone threw it up on stage and he wore at the concert and other concerts in the US. It was pretty cool. And someone randomly sent me the picture with Dr Cornel West – who I love – and you know what? That’s probably one of the highlights of my life!
That is pretty awesome…
Being on stage with Public Enemy, the Brixton show and Lupe wearing my T-shirt with Dr West – and completing my set of Ninja Turtles at the age of seven or eight – that was pretty awesome.
Really? But there are only four ninja turtles…
Yeah but it was a big deal for a kid [laughs].
What are your plans for the future/project you’re currently working on?
We definitely want to do more with Fear of a Brown Planet internationally since we are always getting requests from the US, UK and Canada.
Do you see yourself doing this forever?
I hope not. This is just a stepping-stone for my rap career.
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Quick Fire with Aamer Rahman:
If you could be the leader of the free world for a day, what would you do?
I would put George Lucas on trial for producing the Star Wars prequels.
Good choice, I support you on that. What’s something about you that people don’t know?
Sometimes I cry. I watched the Lion King 3D by myself. I may have cried then.
Since you’re a geek: Star Wars or Star Trek?
Star Wars takes place in a galaxy far, far away, while Star Trek is the future of our own Earth… So technically they are not incompatible.
If you could have dinner with anyone — past or present — who would it be?
I’m really good at?
Wasting time on the internet watching different animals fighting on YouTube. Panther vs. Anaconda is one of my favourites.
I’m really hopeless at…
The profession I’d like to attempt is…
Mixed Martial Arts fighter.
I’m sad when…
I find myself stuck in a conversation about AFL.
I’m happy when…
The underdog wins.
I love it when people are…
Laughing at my jokes. It’s much better than when they are not laughing at my jokes.
I take comfort in…
Wisdom and advice from my spiritual teachers.
People tell me I look like…
“That other guy from Brown Planet. Not Nazeem, the other guy.”
My ideal destination is…
When I feel sorry for myself I…
Buy a good comic book.
If I could be someone else for a day I’d be…
My philosophy in life is…