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A young Muslim's comedic quest for self-defined spirituality

Although many come from backgrounds where prescribed religion is compulsory, spirituality has also risen in prominence and finding the right fit might be awkward, and it doesn't get more hilarious than in Ramy
Author: Naledi Sibisi
Fri, Sep 18, 2020

If you are a fan of stand-up comedy then you are no stranger to Ramy Youssef.

In his network television debut on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, he hopped on stage to say: "Hey, my name is Ramy Youssef and I am Muslim. Like, yeah, like, from the news. Have you guys seen our show?" In the now-famous skit, he joked about how Muslims were portrayed on the news and how he was waiting for his Hogwarts letter from ISIS when he turns 30.

So, when I opened Showmax this week to start watching Ramy and he popped up on my screen, I was geeked because I'd made the connection. I laugh from memory as I write this because what I remember from that skit was when he spoke about how he believes Trump when he talks about “fake news” because we watch these terrible things happen and then go about our day. “I remember the day the Muslim Ban happened. I was upset because I have family that doesn’t have citizenship and I wanna see them again but personally, I had a really good day.”

In the same spirit, Youssef pretty much plays himself on the show – a young man who is on a quest to figure out his identity as he navigates his spirituality, beliefs and practices. A lazy laugh is very much part of my personal brand but let me tell you something, within the first five minutes of watching it I was in stitches.

In an early scene, he is talking to the boys about finding the right woman, to which they quickly talk him out of dating white women. "They suck, bro. You can't keep dating them. They are always walking barefoot and jumping in stuff", to which Ramy questions what they mean by jumping in stuff. "They just jump in stuff that is none of their business. You don't want a wife that skinny dips. You want a wife that swims at normal times in proper attire."

We then meet Chloe, Ramy's girlfriend at the time, in the next scene. They have just had sex and she catches him checking the condom for holes in the bathroom. His reasoning is that you never know how condoms are packaged and transported. This is his safety precaution because he would never tell her what to do with her body in the event that she falls pregnant. She gets upset because she brings up instances in which he is not even, "Muslim like that".

"You bought drinks for the whole table. And, yesterday when I asked you if you wanted a glass of wine you said you reached your limit", to which he innocently and fairly responds that he had a Coke when he bought drinks and he did reach his limit – which is none. It is HILARIOUS and it is also the point of the series.

Ramy Youssef and Mahershala Ali in season two of Ramy

Even though Ramy is on a quest to find and root himself spiritually, he already does so in practice. Chloe thinking that he is not "Muslim like that" is a result of not noticing the ways in which he sincerely practises his faith. He does not drink, he goes to the Mosque and he does his rituals, however, he is also torn as he is on a pursuit to define who he is and who he wants to be.

His sister drags him for working at a start-up that has not even started and then resents his request to his conservative parents to find him a Muslim woman to settle down with because it will inadvertently put pressure on her to do the same.

He does not drink, he goes to the Mosque and he does his rituals, however, he is also torn as he is on a pursuit to define who he is and who he wants to be.

The cool, calm, sometimes chaotic and very comedic approach to the series offers an informative perspective on Arab culture from a young western perspective. Coming from bingeing the likes of Insecure recently, I am reminded of the success of such shows. It is because they follow characters and specific experiences without speaking for the entire culture at large.

Ramy is another example of just how much young representation matters and more than that, makes for quality TV.