‘Ramy’ – A thoughtful portrait of Muslims
Ramy is a young man caught between two worlds.
As played by stand-up comic Ramy Youssef in the Hulu comedy “Ramy,” which begins streaming Friday, April 19, he’s a likable first-generation Egyptian-American twentysomething toiling among self-involved Millennials at a struggling start-up and still living at his childhood home in Jersey City, N.J.
Of course, his traditional parents Farouk (Amr Waked, “Salmon Fishing in the Yemen”) and Maysa (Hiam Abbass, “Blade Runner 2049”) would like him to get out of the house, get a real job and find a nice girl, preferably Muslim, because that’s what his married friends have done. But his outspoken sister Dena (May Calamawy, “The Long Road Home”) would prefer he not go anywhere, lest the folks turn their nagging on her.
Meanwhile, his Uncle Naseem (Laith Nakli, “I’m Not Me”), a card-carrying misogynist and anti-Semite, has a job for his nephew in his diamond business if he so chooses to go that route.
The series, which was created by Youssef and is based on his experiences, plays against the usual sitcom trope of the first-generation American rejecting their heritage and/or religion in favor of American culture. Which is a sentiment Youssef – also a New Jersey native, son of immigrants and practicing Muslim – never bought into.
“The tension is always, ‘I don’t want to be like you,’ or ‘I wish I was like my white friends,’ and I never really related to that,” he says. “I always really felt this connection to my culture, to my faith, and the tension in my life has always been how do I hold onto both things. What does it feel like when you want to go to Mecca and you also want to go to Burning Man? I’ve never seen that played out. It’s always just like either/or; you’re watching people try to erase their history.”
In addition to finding that middle ground, Youssef also wanted to show Muslims as humans with very human virtues, foibles and frailties.
“I think because we’re so underrepresented when people see us, we’re constantly trying to apologize or over-prove … that we’re good,” he says. “I think what really shows that someone’s good is that they’re a human being and they’re really dealing with real things, and that’s what I think this show is doing for the first time for Muslims. It’s just showing us not being afraid to show us in all of our problems. And it’s not an apology … it’s just these are things we’re dealing with, and what we’re dealing with might also be what you’re dealing with, too.”