May 30, 2020 - 6:24 pm
Ramy Youssef calls it his golden moment. The first-generation Egyptian American comedian, actor and writer this year won a Golden Globe for best actor in a TV musical or comedy for his Hulu series, “Ramy.”
“I know you guys haven’t seen my show,” he said during his acceptance speech. “Everyone is like, ‘Is he an editor?’ ”
Youssef actually wears several hats for “Ramy,” which begins its second season this weekend. Most of all, he plays a loosely autobiographical version of himself … a young man living and dealing with his Arab Muslim family in New Jersey.
Review-Journal: How is your quarantine going in L.A.?
Ramy Youssef: I wish I was bored. Most of the time, I was trying to finish the new season of the show. I’ve actually been at home doing so much editing and so much work. I just watched some of the final cuts today before jumping on this phone call. All of the usual processes got slowed down because of quarantine.
How do you chill out on a Sunday during normal times?
Basketball, reading, video games. Dork dude stuff.
Tell us about Season 2.
I think of it as aspirational. Ramy is trying to figure out who he is after going to Egypt on this spiritual journey. This season is also more transformational. There is a lot Ramy wants to change and we’ll see him work through a lot of his issues. He’s asking himself, “What do I want? How do I live up to expectations?”
What’s interesting is he’s not trying to assimilate into the dominant culture. He wants to fit within his own culture.
Exactly. He loves his faith and looks up to it. He wants to adhere to it. Most shows have a main character of a different culture trying to fit into the mainstream. Trying to have a great life within the culture you love or were raised in is not something that is explored enough on TV.
Describe the response to the first season from your Muslim fans and friends.
The Muslim culture as an audience is in an unfair situation here. There are so few examples of them represented on TV. So, a lot of weight gets put on a show like mine. Most of the feedback, however, has been very positive. People want even more from the show. They do appreciate how parts of the show match their own lives.
How did you get your start?
As a guy growing up in Jersey, I was always pursuing sketch comedy. I’d take the train into New York and perform in as many clubs as I could. I’m not sure if I had a real plan. My career just organically turned into this thing. Once I started doing more stand-up, I figured out that I really wanted to talk about something important like race and culture.
At the Golden Globes, you made fun of the fact that most people in the room probably hadn’t seen your show.
(Laughs) I won … and then I had to call it out. It was the stand-up in me. I’m sure people there and at home were like, “Who is this dude?” … Out of maybe 500 shows on the air that year, they pick five people to nominate. I couldn’t even believe I was one of the five. When I heard my name as the winner, it was surreal, as was later that night when I heard from Questlove, who tweeted me, “Yo, man. I really gotta watch your show now.”
Any other brushes with fame since you became a streaming star?
I couldn’t believe I was in the same room as Brad Pitt that night. Not that we talked. But we were in the same room, and that’s a start.
Where is the oddest place you’ve been recognized?
At the mosque. Some guy leans over and whispers, “Hey dude, I watch your show.”