‘Ramy’ is the smartest television of the moment

The Hulu original takes an in-depth look at identity in America without trying to encompass all Muslim Americans’ identities into one character

ramy

Comedian and actor Ramy Youssef writes, produces and stars in Hulu original based on his experiences as an Egyptian American.

Courtesy Flickr

There is nothing about “Ramy” that turns a viewer away — the show only draws them in by immediately introducing a main character with unspoiled commentary about pushy mothers, the necessity of washing between toes before prayer and the Muslim community on Tinder in the Jersey City area. Ramy is played by Ramy Youssef, a comedian who has been featured on “The Late Show with Stephen Colbert,” who shares many traits with his character. The two biggest similarities are faith — Islam plays a major role in the show — and location, as the show is set in New Jersey where Youssef was born and raised.

“Ramy” — which premiered on Hulu Friday — has a fresh, vibrant energy possessed by all good television pilots — one that knows what it’s here to give to its viewers— take “Broad City”, “PEN15” and “Russian Doll” for other recent successes in this area. “Ramy” is here to humorize and uncover the under-discussed lives of young Muslims navigating boundaries of their faith in an America that doesn’t always accept their lifestyles without judgement. 

A conversation between Ramy and the first Muslim girl he takes out on a date presents a striking moment of commentary on the state of America right now. Ramy and his date joke about the Muslim ban implemented by President Trump. Exchanging their ice creams between them, the scene depicts the effects of the current political climate on everyday moments, such as a first date, without overdoing the message. Television set in a post-Trump era that doesn’t address the issues created by the administration feels outdated and complicit, giving “Ramy” a wonderful touch of reality that’s both dark and funny. 

When the conversation is dark, it’s dark for the sake of maintaining that grip on truth. Everything isn’t peachy for Ramy and the people around him, and this show does not avoid confronting the crisis of finding love and stability. Whether you’re a young Muslim man like Ramy or not, the pressure to settle down into a typical domestic lifestyle is an inherent part of the American experience. The commentary the show provides on the unspoken and spoken rules of marriage and financial experience will allow watchers around the same age as the character to feel a certain pang of understanding. The late twenties and early thirties are a common age for television shows to reckon with— but unlike previous sitcoms like “How I Met Your Mother” and “Friends” that depict love and marriage to be an obvious, achievable and beautiful goal, “Ramy” is far more honest.  

The main character’s mother and her pestering fill up the show’s first scene. She’s bugging Ramy about settling down with a girl. She even encourages him to meet a woman at the mosque — a comment that Ramy feels uncomfortable with, considering the sanctity of the religious setting to him. 

One of the most fantastic things about the show lies in the intersectionality of the commentary. While the show centers around the experience of a man, it excels in including the trials of navigating questions of sex, love and marriage as women too. One scene introduces Ramy’s sister, creating a voice for the pressure of Muslim women to get married and not “die alone.” The importance of feminine sexual desire without judgement also makes it in the first episode of the series, basically guaranteeing more of the same direct discourse in the later episodes. 

“Ramy” is still a comedy despite all the work it does to confront societal issues and delivers on capturing delightful scenes of humor. “And yeah, I’m probably going to try mushrooms one day,” says Ramy at a pinnacle point of desperation when it comes to navigating the multifaceted identity of being a young millennial working at a startup, having premarital sex, while also ranting about belief in God. Even when discussing serious topics like faith, there is still a joke having to do with texting, jerking off or a Facebook photo, but to Ramy the importance of God remains in his heart. 

With the constant reminders of more and more television releases, finding a new “good” show can sometimes deliver a sense of overstimulation from all the choices. “Ramy” delivers with mouthy moments and heartwarming relatability. 

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