Ramy Youssef Interview: ‘Ramy’
“He’s trying to strive for where he thinks he should be,” declares Ramy Youssef,” about his new comedy series “Ramy,” and a big part of that is his faith,” he adds. Watch our exclusive video interview with Youssef above.
“Ramy” premiered on Hulu earlier this year to rave reviews. It was co-created and produced by Youssef, who also writes and directs for the show and stars as the title character. Ramy is an American Muslim caught between the cultural traditions of his Egyptian immigrant upbringing and his relatively progressive millennial American values. But as Youssef explains it, the show aims to subvert expectations by having Ramy embrace his faith rather than shy away from it.
“What is a little different here is we’re seeing his faith and his culture be something that is aspirational for him. I think a lot of stories involve someone trying to erase their faith or step away from it,” he says. “I wanted to make something where the struggle is internal, so he sees the positivity of his culture and his faith.”
“We made the struggle internal because he wasn’t just blaming his family and he wasn’t just blaming people around him. He’s really actually looking at personal responsibility. I don’t think there’s anything more universal than personal responsibility and I feel that’s why it’s been really exciting to see how it has resonated with so many people,” Youssef says. “I got an email from an Evangelical Christian father of three saying ‘I am Ramy,’” he reveals, even noting that “there was this really great article in the Times in Israel saying ‘every Jew needs to watch Ramy’,” which he says surprised and delighted him at the same time.
Like other shows by auteur comedians (like “Atlanta” and “Master of None”), “Ramy” reflects on life, family and relationships from a particular point of view. It doesn’t aim to be a “one-size-fits-all” portrayal of the Muslim experience. It explores this guy’s life in a unique, sometimes uncomfortable and often genuinely funny way. It’s a specific portrait of this guy and his culture, rather than a caricature of what people might expect a Muslim American man in his twenties to say and do.
“There’s so much dialogue around the hate coming towards our communities and towards our faith and that’s what dominates headlines, but for me to make a show, my job is not really to reflect the headlines that we already know exist. It’s to show what’s under the hood that you don’t know,” Youssef explains. “A lot of the things we chose to explore are things that you wouldn’t have heard about, and so I think there’s this expectations that [people might say] ‘this is a show about an Arab Muslim family in New Jersey in the United States and I’m so excited to see them talking about the Muslim ban and Trump and politics and all that,’ but we pretty much wholly avoid that, not to be apolitical, but that’s what people already know coming in, which would defeat showing our humanity.”