These past few months, I had watched comedian Ramy Yousef promote his show Ramy on Hot Ones and Conan’s podcast. On both programs, he proved to be incredibly likeable and someone who I thought was very relatable. And when considering how my favourite comedian Conan O’Brien did nothing but say good things about Ramy, I decided to give the show a go myself – boy was it good. The show has 30 episodes between three seasons and I finished the whole thing in about two days. I was literally skipping the gym because of how hooked I was on Ramy. For those not in the know, Yousef stars as a fictionalized version of himself in his self entitled show. It’s a comedy centered around his Muslim family and community in New Jersey and the struggles that he has as an American born Egyptian Muslim millennial. Throughout the series you will see him and his community go through certain struggles that may be unique to the Muslim-American experience. This show is fantastic but more so than anything, it low key fucked me up.
In Yousef’s interview with Conan, he mentions that his character comes across these problems in his life due to his inability to find a passion. He’s constantly making mistakes, screwing people over, all while trying be a devout Muslim. And a lot of these struggles that he has are due to his faith. For instance, he enjoys having sex and has sex with non-Muslim women often but he knows that shit is 7aram (did I do it right?) and so he feels guilty. And he’s trying to be pious to his parents and devout to his faith but he’s also trying to be a modern American man. It’s the classic POC story in America where you’re not quite one thing but not quite the other either – except his character is actually going through it and not appropriating his struggle for a college acceptance essay.
Because he keeps fucking up, he ends up deciding that he needs to be a better Muslim in order to keep his life on the straight and narrow. This way, he will have structure, a set of guidelines, and he can become productive while getting closer to God. He makes a good point here, as someone who relates to him a lot, I just kept thinking “Fuck, do I convert to Islam for structure in my life?” – the answer is no, for me and for awhile I think it should have been a no for him too because he just didn’t seem like he was being a very good Muslim by the standards that his community sets for him. At one point in the series I kept thinking about how he was just using Islam as an excuse to make shitty mistakes because he would fuck up, try to recover in a way that was in line with his faith, but then proceed to shit the bed again. Like this dude just loves fucking his shit up.
But those episodes aren’t even the worst. It’s the episodes of his family members, where you see his parents, uncle, and sister struggle with being Muslims/Egyptians in America. Listen, I got immigrant parents too. I could only imagine how hard it is to uproot your entire life with not much and to build from zero in another country. How this family was written and portrayed was next level, it was almost like watching my parents except these people were brown. I mean the episode with his mother trying to make friends is absolutely devastating. Not to mention that Hiam Abbass who plays Maysa – the mother is fucking incredible in her role – easily the best performer in this entire show. She fucking bodies that shit and makes you feel every bit of her pain. When your parents go through the challenge of immigrating, you think that they can handle anything but they really can’t. Sometimes they’re not conquering things, they’re just doing enough to get by. Shit, even Kobe Bryant tore his Achilles. The pure struggle that Ramy’s parents go through and how they just accept it as normal is agonizing to watch. I think that in watching this series, you will starting see your own parents in the place of Ramy’s parents – especially if your folks are immigrants too.
To cap it all off on a positive, this show is just really interesting and fresh. I’ve grown up around Muslims my entire life, some of my really good friends are Muslims and I’ve seen them and known them for what feels like forever, but I really don’t know too much about their faith. To be fair, I never asked and maybe I should. I think that this show does a great job of stripping away the negative symbols that western media has put out against Islam, while also highlighting the parts of Islam that might not be great. It’s exactly how a Muslim-American millennial would see their own faith, outlining the accuracies and allusions of Islam. They touch on Israel-Palestine, they touch on feminism in Islam, homophobia, antisemitism – everything you could imagine. It’s not some surface level Fresh Off The Boat or Crazy Rich Asians – examples that I use as a Chinese person. This show is as complete as they come and I highly encourage those who are looking for passion to watch this show because it will fuck you up and make you realize that maybe your life will never be as bad as Ramy’s because that guy could win a medal for fucking up.