Interview: Ramy Youssef on Finding the Right Balance in Comedy and Drama for ‘Ramy’

Ramy‘s third season is its best one yet. It’s one of those rare shows that finds a deft balance between pitch-perfect comedy and thoughtful and profoundly moving drama. When I get the chance to interview co-creator/director/writer and actor Ramy Youssef on the series, I immediately had to ask him how he, as a writer, can balance out comedy and drama.

For Youssef, he explained that he quickly felt he “never wanted to say something just because I thought it was funny.”

“I wanted it to be something that I was really thinking about, or that I believed in, or at least genuinely confused about and needed to discuss with an audience. I think that’s always the core. I think that’s where the emotional piece [of the series] comes from. And then we can add a layer where we can say “All right, cool, but now we have to make it funny.” The comedy is on top of that core. And that’s how I always find the blend.”

It’s a great answer from one of comedy television’s most brilliant minds. Youssef has always found great humor in embarrassing situations, and Ramy’s third season contains a plethora of amounts where Ramy Hassan (also played by Youssef) makes a fool of himself over and over again. It’s also because of the fact that Youssef “dug a hole” for Ramy that this season focuses more on Ramy’s family than the protagonist himself:

“This season, we didn’t really do solo characters. We put family members together. In the last season, we dug a hole for Ramy. And he was alone, so it felt natural that he would be separate from his family and friends. But we wanted to see what they’re going through.

I think the way the season ends, for Ramy, I think we feel we might have a glimpse of what it might look like if he rejoined with his higher self. Because the show is always just splitting between the higher self and the lower self. And we’re watching everyone navigate that space. By the end of the season, you get this feeling that maybe he’s served his time in that place of shame for what had happened before.”

One of the most exciting aspects of Ramy is its intricate soundtrack and needle drops. The show always manages to drop an *amazing* song at the perfect moment for the emotional impact of the scene to run highest. I think of Uncle Naseem (Laith Nakli) eating cake alone on a street while an Arabic version of I Will Survive plays in season two’s ninth episode. One of the show’s most powerful moments which stuck with me long after it aired. This season, Youssef has written many scenes which integrate the music of Egyptian artist Warda:

“The records that we use were really at the forefront of launching a lot of labels in Cairo that distribute music. [Warda] is an influential person in the history of art in Egypt. A lot of what we’ve done from the beginning is to dig through these archives of these sounds that feel really contemporary, but also feel really classic. This season, more than ever, I wrote Warda playing and feeling like “Okay, I want to do this montage to this song with my voiceover.” In the middle of shooting season three, I already had a season four playlist on my Spotify where I was like, “Oh, I want to try this at some point.”

Here’s hoping for a fourth season. I [and everybody else] need it. You can watch my full interview with Ramy Youssef below and see the third season on Hulu on September 30:


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Written by Maxance Vincent

Maxance Vincent is a freelance film and TV critic, and a recent graduate of a BFA in Film Studies at the Université de Montréal. He is currently finishing a specialization in Video Game Studies, focusing on the psychological effects regarding the critical discourse on violent video games.

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