Being a relative newcomer to Hollywood, and the entertainment industry as a whole, Ramy Youssef's Golden Globe win has understandably come as a surprise to many. But perhaps no one was as stunned as the Egyptian-American comedian himself.
"I was just happy they pronounced it [his name] right," the actor and writer, 28, later joked in the press room. "I was like, is Jennifer Aniston going to be able to pronounce this name? And she did it! Maybe it was Reese [Witherspoon], it was all a blur."
The actor looked stunned when actresses Aniston and Witherspoon announced him as the winner of the award for Best Actor in a Television Series – Musical or Comedy for his performances in his semi-autobiographical comedy show Ramy. "Thank you so much. Firstly I would like to thank my God, Allahu Akbar," Youssef said, after he stepped on stage to receive the award.
The takbir was an apparent jab at host Ricky Gervais, who had only moments before sneered at actors thanking God when they win awards. But Youssef told reporters backstage that he intended on thanking God anyway.
“I’m very thankful to God, and my show is about someone who believes in their faith, so I naturally don’t always feel like I’m on the same page with the comedic styles of Ricky Gervais on that subject," Youssef said.
He also joked about how most people probably had not watched his show.
“We made a very special show about an Arab Muslim family living in New Jersey and this means a lot, to be recognised on this level," he said.
Shortly afterwards, Youssef said: “This is very exciting and very unexpected."
He then spoke about the symbolism of Ramy.
“It’s a really specific story. Symbolically it hopefully allows people to make more stories. A story like a woman who wears a headscarf, who’s Muslim," he said.
"I think If you watch my show you’ll realise, 'Oh I see his perspective so much, I actually also need hers'. There’s not just one show for one group. It’s really about the type of stories and the way they’re told.”
What is 'Ramy' about?
Youssef's ground-breaking Hulu sitcom made waves in Hollywood and was renewed for a second season in May last year. Youssef arrived in the entertainment industry only a few years ago, with an appearance on The Late Show with Stephen Colbert in 2017 launching him into Hollywood circles.
While on the show he performed his stand-up routine and poked fun at common Muslim misconceptions.
“I’m Muslim. Like from the news. Have you guys seen our show?”
Ramy portrays that rarest of TV finds: an ordinary Muslim living a pretty typical life.
The show touches on topics we’ve seen tackled before on screen, but in a refreshingly down-to-earth way. Ramy’s sister Dena bemoans how her parents treat her differently to Ramy, but it’s a petty family squabble, not a topic for an after-show Q&A.
Youssef could have taken a much less unique, and doubtless easier, route with his show. In tit, the actor is a struggling stand-up and the tried and tested "struggling stand-up makes show about struggling stand-up" in the vein of Seinfeld would doubtless have worked. He could have taken religion as his theme and chosen to take a polemic-with-gags approach.
But instead, the comic chose to do something that shouldn’t warrant a mention, but does: he made a show about a regular guy, who happens to be Muslim.