There’s a new show on Hulu about a young man who practices a different religion from most other Americans. He doesn’t smoke or drink. His parents want him to meet a nice girl who shares his faith, get married and have children.
And most people refer to his religion with a six-letter word that starts with “M.”
“Ramy” is not, however, about a Morm ... er, a member of The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It’s about a young man (Ramy Youssef) who’s first-generation Egyptian American — and a Muslim.
(All 10 episodes start streaming Friday on Hulu.)
Youssef, a standup comedian, is pretty much playing himself. And he didn’t want “Ramy” to be about a first-generation American who wants to break away from his family’s traditions and religion and be more like his “white friends.”
“I never really related to that. I always really felt this connection to my culture, to my faith,” Youssef said. “And the tension in my life has always been — how do I hold on to both things? What does it feel like when you want to go to Mecca, and you also want to go to Burning Man? I’ve never seen that played out.”
Ramy (the character) is religious. He goes to his mosque and prays, even though he’s aggravated by the need to wait in line to wash his feet. His shortcut leads to an older man telling him there’s “a good chance your prayers never counted” and “if the water doesn’t go between your toes, the devil will!”
Ramy (the character) thinks of himself as a fairly observant Muslim, though he has an active sex life and his religion prohibits premarital sex. Which sort of makes him a bad Muslim. (“Bad Muslim” was under consideration as a title for the show.)
“Well, that’s why the show’s called ‘Ramy.’ It’s not called ‘Muslims,’” said Youssef. “The point of the show is the conflict with the faith” his character feels. “This is not a how-to-be-Muslim guide. This is not the outtakes from the Quran. This is someone struggling and not being a good Muslim.”
There is, however, a line he would “never cross.”
“We never attack the religion. We actually don’t even really question the religion,” Youssef said. “We just question our own intentions within the religion and the culture. ... We’re dealing with what is very real and relatable, I think, to a lot of people.”
Like members of a variety of other religions, including the LDS Church. And anyone who has a racist uncle. And anyone whose mother ever said something like, “Do you want to stay alone forever?”
Ramy’s response: “You can’t just walk up to a Muslim girl and start spitting game. What am I supposed to say — ‘Hey, can I get your father’s number?’”
“Ramy” is a half-hour comedy, but it’s not exactly a traditional sitcom. It’s not filled with setups and punchlines; the comedy comes from the situations. It’s amusing, engaging and occasionally laugh-out-loud funny.
“There’s only two hot Muslim girls left in town, and they’ll be gone by the end of the year,” his married friend tells him.
(The show is for adults. There’s plenty of R-rated language and sexual situations.)
Youssef is the star, creator and writer of “Ramy,” and he executive produces with Jerrod Carmichael (“The Carmichael Show”). His goal is to make viewers laugh, though he wouldn’t mind if he opens some eyes about Muslims.
“I just want to show that we’re human,” Youssef said. “I think because we’re so underrepresented [on TV and in movies] ... we’re constantly trying to apologize or over-prove and show that we’re good. I think what really shows that someone’s good is that they’re a human being, and they’re really dealing with real things. And that’s what I think this show is doing for the first time for Muslims.”