Ramy Youssef: Digging deeper into the experiences of his titular show

Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons under CC-BY-SA 2.0

From being an American stand-up comedian to directing his own comedy series on Hulu called “Ramy,” Ramy Youssef has made a global impact through his stand-ups and comedy-drama series. On Friday, May 21, ASPB collaborated with the Middle Eastern Student Center to host “Live With Ramy!: A Conversation With Ramy Youssef” as part of their M.E. Week guest speaker event. Every year, the MESC spends a week celebrating Middle Eastern culture. This event allowed students to have a conversation with Youssef and get to know a bit more about his recent works. 

Ali Saadat, the MESC Student Development Specialist, started off the first round of questions. Youssef mentioned his life growing up in New Jersey coming from an Egyptian family. He felt that there were some differences in terms of language. However, he is grateful for the environment he grew up in and the diversity New Jersey has to offer. Youssef also brought up how his family reacted to his change in career path. Before taking on the career of a comedian, he had attended Rutgers University, Newark to study political science and economics. Convincing his parents was really hard, especially when they would openly state their opinion. “I appreciate the pressure I had and it made me work really hard,” Youssef explained.

It was not easy directing and starring in “Ramy,” according to Youssef. “My initial intention was to focus on key characters and investigate what they are going through from an introspective place,” he said. Although a lot of his viewers are not Muslim, he hopes that when they watch the show, it will give them more perspective on the Muslim experience. There was a lot of tension between parents and kids while he was growing up. Youssef’s goal was to develop a show where he’s able to integrate traditions and show how the character struggles. Youssef was also inspired to create “Ramy” through different types of movies. “The magic of streaming is why our show exists,” Youssef stated. He wanted the characters to feel as “cinematic as possible” through their stories. 

During the second half of the event, students were given the opportunity to talk to Youssef about his career. UCR student Gaby Bobadilla mentioned that she was inspired to take part in a Chicana podcast through the influence of his works. When asked what advice he would give in writing a show, Youssef advised to dig into whatever you want to tell people. In life, we were always taught to project a positive side of ourselves. Any time a story is able to show something about a character that no one is able to say in-person, it may be a really cool thing to show. 

With Ramy’s successful career in mind, Laura Shah asked Youssef where he sees himself in five years. Youssef paused for a moment and revealed that he is hoping to be a “better version of himself” or “more like himself.” He’s excited to always be doing that spiritually. To be a part of creating infrastructure for others to get their stories out, Youssef feels really lucky and excited to see the little difference he is making through different backgrounds and traditions. 

This event was really helpful for those who aspire to work in the film industry and those who look up to people who are making a difference within the community.

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