Ramy Youssef's Comedy Videos Prove He's Just As Funny In Real Life As He Is On His Hulu Show
It's easy to see in Ramy Youssef's comedy videos that he can get a laugh out of an audience, and his ability to mine his personal life for jokes has gotten him far. He's performed stand-up on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, signed on to film an hour-long HBO special, and is gearing up to release his new Hulu series, Ramy, on April 19. Suffice it to say, he's having kind of a moment.
Ramy is the latest in a line of semi-autobiographical shows created by comedians, such as Pete Holmes' Crashing on HBO and Maria Bamford's Lady Dynamite on Netflix. It stars Youssef as the titular character, a Muslim, third culture kid navigating life in suburban New Jersey. But rather than rebelling against his religious upbringing — as we've seen in projects like Master of None and The Big Sick — Youssef's character embraces it. He wants to figure out how to be a faithful Muslim amid what can feel like a widely agnostic generation. He goes to bars and parties, but doesn't drink. He has casual sex, but feels guilty about it afterward. It's not a PSA for how to be a better, more religious person, but rather an honest, authentic depiction of a man trapped between two worlds. Ramy isn't afraid to find humor in the darker, messier aspects of everyday life — just as Youssef isn't in his comedy.
Youssef's Muslim faith is as much a part of his stand-up as it is his life, and he understands that a lot of people in America will dislike him simply because of that. "If I watch Fox News for more than 10 minutes I'm like 'F*ck... am I gonna do some sh*t?'" he he joked during a set at Backyard Busk. "They make it seem inevitable ... like I'm gonna turn 30 and just get a Hogwarts letter from ISIS." It's funny, but it also speaks to the reality of living in a world in which Islamophobia is still woefully active.
On Donald Trump
Comedians have been making jokes about Donald Trump since long before he was president, and Youssef's pre-election material attempts to make sense of the then-candidate by explaining that he's not a person as much as he is a feeling. "You just feel Trump. It just hits you. Sometimes you're mad and you're upset and you wanna curse somebody out, but sometimes you're Trump and you're just like, 'F*ck China,'" he said. In Youssef's mind, Trump channeled that feeling of frustration into a successful campaign — and eventually, a presidency.
On "Coming Out" As A Religious Person
Youssef made his network television debut on the Late Show with Stephen Colbert in May of 2017 — nearly two years before the premiere of Ramy. His set included jokes about terrorism, the Muslim Ban, Fake News, and believing in God. "I grew up in a town where I watched my gay friends struggle to come out in a religious community," he explained. "Now I live in L.A., where I'm a religious person struggling to come out to the gay community."
The common thread amongst all of Youssef's comedy is a sense of earnestness and an interest in examining his own feelings about identity and how other people perceive him. This down-to-earth approach carries over to Ramy, and fans of the show or his comedy would do well to keep an eye out for his hour-long special on HBO later this year. There are plenty of comedians releasing TV shows and stand-up specials, but right now, there really doesn't seem to be anyone quite like Youssef in comedy.