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Television

Hulu’s Muslim comedy ‘Ramy’ refuses to be defined by Trump-era politics

Hulu Panel - Winter TCA 2019
Jerrod Carmichael and Ramy Youssef of “Ramy” onstage during Hulu’s presentation at the TCAs Monday.
(Erik Voake / Getty Images for Hulu)

“What is ‘Trumpism’?” asked Jerrod Carmichael, executive producer of the upcoming Hulu comedy “Ramy.”

The question arose when Carmichael faced a question at the Television Critics Assn. presentations about whether the new show created by Muslim comic Ramy Youssef would reckon with the president. He went on to say he genuinely wanted to know and had never heard the term before.

While the Trump administration’s 2017 Muslim ban on travel to the U.S. remains an elephant in the room for a series that centers on Youssef as a young comic navigating New York City as a first-generation Muslim immigrant, “Ramy” is determined to not be defined by that.

“I’m not negating the reality of it . . . you can assume already that [the characters] talk about it. What we want to do is show you the things you couldn’t assume about our family,” Youssef said. “We’re not defined by the shadow of Trump and I do not want to be, so that’s really our approach.”

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In a trailer shared before the show’s panel at TCA, “Ramy” shows Youssef questioning and not always living up to the ideals of his religion, and he finds himself at odds with his family as a result. That conflict is what first forged a friendship between Carmichael and Youssef, who came together not as fellow comics but as two people of faith in Hollywood.

“Ramy cares about what his parents think,” Carmichael said, explaining one of the core conflicts on the show that stems from personal experience. “I personally don’t [care] about what my parents think about anything I make, and that’s fun. It’s fun to not care and put out the things you want to put out without any fear.”

As Youssef started to explain himself further, Carmichael grinned and added, “Hulu doesn’t want your mom to write a script.”

Youssef’s conflicted feelings about his faith serve as a key element of the show, but he clarified that “Ramy” is not a guide for how to be devout. “This is someone struggling and not being a good Muslim,” he said. “It was almost called ‘Bad Muslim’ if it wasn’t for the ‘Bad Santa’ movies.”

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“Ramy battles with that a lot. He’ll call me about certain things on the show [that] clash with the faith,” Carmichael said. “I’ll tell him, you love God, but God wants you to get this money.”

“But the line I would never cross — because there’s enough people doing it — we never attack the religion,” Youssef added. “We just question our own intentions within the religion and the culture.”

chris.barton@latimes.com

Follow me over here @chrisbarton.


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