Zain Hussain: Keeping Austin Comedy Weird

February 26, 2023

Photo Credit

Parker Howard


Valerie Lopez


Alyssa Spatola


I’ve nev­er met Zain Hus­sain, but his com­e­dy is part of the rea­son I moved to Austin. 

While vis­it­ing in ear­ly 2020 (pre-‘rona’), I went to a ran­dom com­e­dy show I knew noth­ing about and found myself at his show This Is Not a Cult at 21st Street Co-op, an alter­na­tive, off-cam­pus res­i­dence for UT stu­dents. In the packed audi­ence, I was sur­round­ed by fun and friend­ly col­lege kids, one of whom was a guy next to me with lux­u­ri­ous, long hair and no shirt on who, with­out any oth­er ques­tions, offered me a big smile and a free beer. The lights went out and a pro­jec­tor light went on. 

Cue co-hosts Zain Hus­sain and Car­los Mor­ri­son doing an equal-parts bizarre and hilar­i­ous Pow­er­point pre­sen­ta­tion on why they should be vot­ed pres­i­dent in the 2020 elec­tion. The show also fea­tured oth­er hilar­i­ous Austin com­e­dy scene OGs like come­di­ans Sam Rinow and Ash­ley Over­ton, and was over­all one of the most fun and mem­o­rable shows I’d ever attended. 

I had only ever seen Hus­sain and Mor­rison’s style of alt com­e­dy in late-night Brook­lyn base­ment shows, but the South­ern hos­pi­tal­i­ty of the crowd was so unde­ni­ably Tex­an. Although I came to the show alone, I left feel­ing I was part of some­thing weird and won­der­ful, and after learn­ing more about Hus­sain through this inter­view with Valerie, the cur­tain was pulled back on the co-pro­duc­er of that weird and won­der­ful world.

[Running Business Hours] was the most fun I ever had doing anything… We're trying our hardest to cultivate a friendly and kind of off-the-wall crazy show idea and do it weekly.”
Zain Hussain

Hus­sain was raised between Hous­ton and Karachi, Pak­istan and born in Hong Kong to fun­ny par­ents, with his mom hav­ing a par­tic­u­lar­ly dark sense of humor. Both that dark humor and his trav­els are appar­ent in his stand up, where he ties com­e­dy into his cul­tur­al expe­ri­ences. Hus­sain even shares his com­e­dy expe­ri­ences in Pak­istan which is a rare glimpse into com­e­dy in a part of the world few will ever experience.

When not doing tra­di­tion­al stand up, alt com­e­dy is still alive and well in both his con­tin­ued per­for­mances with Car­los Mor­ri­son and his choice in com­e­dy show venues. Most notable, as high­light­ed on a recent Spec­trum News seg­ment(!) the duo runs Busi­ness Hours, a com­e­dy show held in the can­dy aisle of con­ve­nience store, Friend­ly Rio Mar­ket. The show was also fea­tured in the Austin Chron­i­cle’s 2022 Top 10 Com­e­dy Sto­ries Austin Com­e­dy Sto­ries high­light­ing that laugh­ter can be found every­where. Adding to the wack­i­ness, the store doesn’t even shut down dur­ing the show, so con­fused cus­tomers are walk­ing in and out at any moment, only adding fod­der for the comics and a grow­ing sense of com­mu­ni­ty and hilar­i­ty for every­one in on the show.

Hus­sain came up with the idea when he walked into the store one day and saw a live per­for­mance of like two dudes play­ing Care­less Whis­per’ on gui­tar.” Where any­one else might have just seen that as a hilar­i­ous, throw­away moment (or per­haps a fever dream) Zain took it as an oppor­tu­ni­ty to ask the own­er to start his own show. 

And good thing Hus­sain did, because he reflects on Busi­ness Hours being the high­light of 2022 for him. “[Run­ning Busi­ness Hours] was the most fun I ever had doing any­thing… We’re try­ing our hard­est to cul­ti­vate a friend­ly and kind of off-the-wall crazy show idea and do it week­ly.” And with the show being full of weird col­lege kids, high on free THC gum­mies he hands out, it’s absolute­ly a high­light for crowds too. Just like he did 3 years ago when I first saw him, Hus­sain con­tin­ues to cre­ate these unique comedic expe­ri­ences that not only hold true to him­self but to Austin as a whole. 

It's these weird kind of odd shows and sketches that I find to be most interesting. I don't know. I like being just insane. I like feeling like a crazy person.
Zain Hussain

You’re no doubt notic­ing the run­ning theme of Hus­sain and Mor­ri­son as col­lab­o­ra­tors and that’s no acci­dent. The duo start­ed com­e­dy at the same time and struck up a friend­ship that has stood the test of not only time, but sev­er­al co-pro­duced shows and sketch­es. They’ve appeared on Clara Black­stone’s Good Pol­lu­tion (exper­i­men­tal com­e­dy), make fre­quent appear­ances at Emma Hold­er’s What a Char­ac­ter show at Fall­out The­ater, and have launched a new show called Bud­dy Sys­tem, held at a prop­er com­e­dy venue, The Velvee­ta Room. This pair appears to be unstoppable.

When he’s not per­form­ing as part of a duo, Hus­sain likes to pur­sue weird­ness through his Nadeem’s Store Insta­gram account which is part artis­tic state­ment, part is this a real store” vibe. And even his Youtube chan­nel holds an ele­ment of weird­ness. Hus­sain admits it’s these weird kind of odd shows and sketch­es that I find to be most inter­est­ing. I don’t know. I like being just insane. I like feel­ing like a crazy person.” 

Between his ongo­ing alt com­e­dy shows and his upcom­ing improv recital at a local senior cen­ter (where he vol­un­teered to teach improv on a whim) Zain Hus­sain is cre­at­ing com­e­dy mem­o­ries for Aus­tinites young and old, all while keep­ing Austin com­e­dy weird.

Fol­low Zain

Zain can be seen and heard:

  • The Bud­dy Sys­tem — 1st Fri­day of every month at The Velvee­ta Room
  • Unof­fi­cial SXSW Music & Com­e­dy Event at Phở Craft, — March 14
  • What a Char­ac­ter — Month­ly show at Fall­out The­ater (next one is March 15)
  • Nadeem’s Store — a satir­i­cal Insta­gram page ded­i­cat­ed to his uncle’s store
  • Glass Half Sil­ly — improv recital at Lamar Senior Activ­i­ty Cen­ter in Mid/​Early April
  • Busi­ness Hours — week­ly Sat­ur­day show at Rio’s Con­ve­nience Store (cur­rent­ly on hiatus)
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Zain Hussain