For birthday parties, boys from school would come to our house in Burwood [in Melbourne’s east]. Mum would join in, turn the music on, and start dancing with my friends. I was so embarrassed, but the kids were having a great time, probably wanting to hang out with my mum more than me.
My older sister, Aiesha, was pretty much a second mum. She is very assertive and would boss my little sister, Azmeena, and me around. I could never win an argument with her and I still can’t.
Azmeena and I are only 18 months apart. She is probably my best mate. She is the funniest person in the family. Everyone is surprised when they find out I am the comedian. She is a workplace injury lawyer. People she has represented tell me how she looked after them during their darkest times. I can never tell her properly that I think she’s the best.
My first crush was Prue Gower in prep. Her dad was a cop. According to Facebook, she now lives in Perth. One time, Aiesha saw us holding hands at school and yelled, “Ewww.” So I said, “Get off me, Prue. Stop touching me,” and ran away.
In the Muslim community, we keep our premarital relationships under wraps. If you meet a girl, you’d say you would like to get to know her for the express purpose of marriage. That’s the way I’ve always viewed relationships, to ask the big questions upfront. Then, if you are both on the same page, see if things work emotionally and romantically. This is how I met my wife, Shaheeda (Abdulla).
We both went to Deakin University and became friends years after I’d completed degrees in law and science. We married in a Muslim ceremony in 2015, but separated in 2018. I am now a single father to our two-year-old son, Eesa, whom we raise together.
I met Casey Donovan in 2017 doing I’m a Celebrity … Get Me Out of Here! I view her as my sister. Her emotional intelligence is off the charts. She helps me see gaps in my emotional understanding of someone’s behaviour. Her understanding of life from a woman’s perspective is valuable.
Becky Lucas [Orange Is the New Brown] is going be Australia’s biggest comedy star in the next few years. She is quick and direct and says what she thinks. She also does what’s right and has a strong moral compass.
I was crowned King of the Moomba Festival in March. Julia Morris was its queen. To be a successful woman in comedy, you really have to give no shits and no f–ks, and Julia doesn’t. Audiences watch her because she puts it all out on stage. She isn’t too cool for anything, and if it’s funny, she’ll do it.
Julia is talented and beautiful but also talks openly about feeling insecure, and people warm to that. It’s not that she doesn’t care about the sexist hate she receives, she is able to push through
it. She still mentors upcoming talent and is giving and generous.
I went to Sri Lanka late last year to make an eight-episode podcast about reconciling my Australian and Sri Lankan identities. There, I met my aunties and cousins. There’s this weird perception that South Asian or maybe Muslim women are somehow meek. But what stood out was how quiet my male cousins were. And just how loud, vivacious and jokey the women were.
Same thing with my mum; my stepfather, Zabeedh, whom she married 10 years ago, is so quiet you’d sometimes forget he’s in the room.
Nazeem Hussain’s Survivor’s Guide to Coronavirus is available on ARN’s iHeartPodcast Network.
This article appears in Sunday Life magazine within the Sun-Herald and the Sunday Age on sale April 26.