After pulling off a victory at the Golden Globes for Best TV Comedy Actor, Ramy Youssef is now seeking to replicate the win at the Emmys. He’s earned two two nominations: one for playing Ramy Hassan on his eponymous Hulu series and one for Best Comedy Directing. For his acting submission, Youssef has chosen “Ramy‘s” Season 2 finale, “You Are Naked in Front of Your Sheikh.”
The episode opens with a flashback to Ramy and his cousin Amani (Rosaline Elbay) meeting up for a hookup at a hotel in Egypt. The hotel staff harasses them, believing they are an unmarried couple, but they back off after Amani claims that she and Ramy are siblings. Amani then says she’s tired of sneaking around and wants to tell their family about their relationship so they can get engaged. Ramy doesn’t want to move the relationship forward, which makes Amani break it off.
Back in the present, Ramy and his fiancée Zainab (MaameYaa Boafo) are visiting her mother’s grave. Zainab, who also happens to be the daughter of Ramy’s spiritual mentor, Sheikh Ali (Mahershala Ali), is looking forward to their upcoming marriage, and the two discuss committing to improving each other together. Ramy returns home to learn that Amani is flying in from Egypt for the katb kitab, which causes Ramy to flip out at his mother. At the pre-ceremony dinner, Ramy is rattled and awkward when greeting Amani and introducing her to Zainab. Later that night, Ramy drives Amani to a drug store. They discuss why her engagement ended. She says she’s happy for Ramy, but Ramy leans in and the two kiss.
Before the katb kitab at the mosque, Ramy is having second thoughts about the ceremony. His friend Mo (Mohammed Amer) says not to worry because the religion allows him to take another wife if he wishes. Ramy goes through with the ceremony, visibly nervous, with his family and friends beaming at the step he’s taking in his life. Later that night, Zainab and Ramy consummate their marriage. Afterward, Zainab admits she’s glad Ramy had some previous experience so that at least one of them knew what they were doing. Ramy starts to talk about his emotions and drops in what Mo had said about possibly taking another wife. Zainab does not react well as Ramy continues to ramble and lets it slip that one of his exes showed up for the ceremony. Zainab quickly realizes that he’s talking about Amani and that the two shared a moment the night before. She angrily puts a pillow between them and goes to sleep.
When Ramy wakes up the next morning, Zainab is gone and Sheikh Ali is sitting in the room and glaring at him. As Ramy attempts to justify his actions, Sheikh Ali goes to make wudu and reveals that Nico, an anti-Muslim protester who was severely beaten by Dennis, a convert Ramy brought into the congregation, has died. Sheikh Ali blames himself for letting Ramy into his life and tears into Ramy, shouting that he hurts people and is dangerous. Ramy quickly goes to make wudu so he and the sheikh can pray, but when Ramy returns, Sheikh Ali is gone. At his house, Ramy doesn’t tell his family about Zainab leaving him. He tries to rekindle what he had with Amani, saying he made a mistake with Zainab, but she rejects him, saying that when she’s around him, she does things that make her hate herself. Defeated, Ramy takes Dennis’ dog, which his family has been caring for, back to Dennis’ abandoned car. In there, Ramy starts the car and a CD titled “How to Be a Muslim” starts playing with the instructions on making wudu.
Let’s examine the pros and cons of whether this episode could lead to a victory for Youssef.
This is probably the most complex character of all the nominees in the Best Comedy Actor category and easily the most layered performance in the category as well. Youssef really captures all of Ramy’s flaws and worst tendencies, but at the same time he’s very careful not to take the character over to the villainous side. The way he walks this fine line with the character could be appreciated by his fellow actors.
It’s hard not to like Youssef himself as his speech at the Globes had the entire audience laughing. The show’s groundbreaking nature of showing a Muslim-American family cannot be ignored and can play into his chances as well. Even though the show doesn’t center around politics, its very existence is political, and in a year with a presidential election, that could give Youssef a leg up. Jeffrey Tambor was in a similar situation in 2016 when he scored his second win for “Transparent.”
The actions of Ramy’s character can be extremely uncomfortable to watch and, as good as the performance is, that could really turn off some voters. There’s a chance they might not make it past him hooking up with his cousin at the very beginning.
On the comedy side, we have had winners whose shows were not nominated for Best Comedy Series, but that has usually happened in the supporting races (Louie Anderson, Allison Janney and Merritt Wever). The last time a lead performance in a comedy program won without a corresponding series nom was Jon Cryer in 2012 for “Two and a Half Men” and Melissa McCarthy the prior year for “Mike & Molly.”
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