Is 'Ramy' Based On A True Story? This First Generation Muslim-American Comedy Is Required Viewing
Hulu is having a moment with prime programming, and it keeps adding to its already impressive list. Between Shrill, Handmaid's Tale, and The Act, the streamer has seriously upped its series game. It's no different with Ramy, which stars comedian, Ramy Youssef tackling thorny identity issues. The way the show addresses religion and politics as told by a first-generation American Muslim, make have you wondering if Ramy is based on a true story or not.
Ramy, is loosely based on Youssef's life as an Egyptian American and Muslim. The comedian and leading actor created the 10-episode first season to depict the character, Ramy, who, according to USA Today, "still lives at home in New Jersey with his immigrant parents, as he grapples with relationships, religion and finding his purpose after he gets laid off from a failing tech startup." If it sounds like something you've never seen on TV before, that's what Ramy is supposed to be.
Variety described Ramy as "a coming-of-age lens on the kind of man who rarely gets that kind of spotlight." Though Youssef does stand-up for a living, he didn't want to include that type of narrative in Ramy, because it's been overused as it is. He also excluded the big city in exchange for the suburbs. So, it is clearly trying to tell this story in a fresh way.
In an interview with Vanity Fair, Youssef said the character Ramy isn't exactly him or his life, but he wanted to showcase an "average" Muslim family, as opposed to the stereotypical versions often portrayed on TV and in film today. He explained the family on Ramy isn't what people would expect saying, "They’re messy, they’re ignorant, they’re loving, they’re a little racist, they’re . . . you know — they’re everything everyone in America is." "Meeting at our fault lines is much more interesting to me than meeting at shared values. I’m not trying to sell you something. If anything, I’m trying to show you where we are. There is nothing to hide." He went on to discuss the uncle character, played by Laith Nakli, and why it was important to add realistic layers. "Our uncle is a Jewish conspiracy theorist," he said. "Your uncle is a Muslim conspiracy theorist. His uncle hates everybody and was probably in the KKK. Everyone’s got that guy."
Another based-in-truth thread from Ramy is that it stars Youssef's best friend IRL (since fourth grade), Steve Way. "He’s such a big part of my life, so it was a no-brainer when we were doing it," Youssef said in the same VF interview. "I was talking about him for a while, and everyone was like, 'Oh, can he act?' And I was like, 'He can act.' They asked, 'What has he been in?' I was like, 'Nothing.' Then we did an audition together, and everyone was like, 'Holy shit,' and I was like, 'Yeah, I told you.'"
All of this to say Ramy is very similar to Youssef's life in many ways, but the end result is still a work of fiction (based on those true events). As a Muslim, Youssef aimed to tell Ramy from the perspective of his experiences as a Muslim — not necessarily that of every Muslim, and that's an important takeaway. "The show is called Ramy. This is my point of view," he said. "There will be parts that Muslims love; there will be parts that they don’t like." Such is the case with all shows though, am I right?