Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 20 February 2020

TV show 'Ramy' may be about an everyday Muslim, but that's why it's groundbreaking

Ramy Youssef's sitcom has been renewed for a second season

Egyptian-American stand-up comedian Ramy Youssef gets his own show on Hulu. Instagram / @ramy
Egyptian-American stand-up comedian Ramy Youssef gets his own show on Hulu. Instagram / @ramy

Ramy Youssef’s ground-breaking Hulu sitcom Ramy has been renewed for a second season, giving rise to a credible theory that (whisper it quietly) perhaps American audiences are interested in realistic portrayals of Muslims in everyday life, especially when a healthy dose of humour is also involved.

Western TV portrayals of Muslims have not generally been overflowing with humour. Bomb vests, oppressed women, heinous plans for global domination? Sure. But humour? As comedian Youssef put it when he went on The Late Show with Steven Colbert to promote season one: “I’m Muslim. Like from the news. Have you guys seen our show?”

Ramy portrays that rarest of TV finds: an ordinary Muslim living a pretty typical life.

The show touches on topics we’ve seen tackled before on screen, but in a refreshingly down-to-earth way. Ramy’s sister Dena bemoans how her parents treat her differently to Ramy, but it’s a petty family squabble, not a topic for an after-show Q&A.

Actor Ramy Youssef is bringing a second season of his hit show to Hulu this year. AP
Actor Ramy Youssef is bringing a second season of his hit show to Hulu this year. AP

Youssef could have taken a much less unique, and doubtless easier, route with his show. The actor himself is a struggling stand-up, and the tried and tested “struggling stand-up makes show about struggling stand-up” in the vein of Seinfeld would have doubtlessly worked. He could have taken religion as his theme and chosen to take a polemic-­with-gags approach,

But instead, the comic chose to do something that shouldn’t warrant a mention, but does: he made a show about a regular guy.

That regular guy happens to be Muslim, but he happens to be a lot of other things, too. His religion does not define him.

The tussle Youssef faces between tradition and the modern world is one that should be familiar to anyone in their twenties, regardless of faith, gender or race. It’s a classic inter-generational dichotomy.

That Youssef has focused on the universality of his character should be applauded. The fact that he has succeeded both creatively, comedically and commercially, should be applauded even louder.

Updated: May 5, 2019 03:13 PM

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