PETER SAGAL, HOST:
And now the game where very smart people come on to be asked about dumb things. It’s called Not My Job. Ramy Youssef says he wanted to make a TV show about his own life in New Jersey ’cause he didn’t want the only Muslims on TV to be the terrorists on “Homeland.” So now we know Muslims can also be sexually confused millennials who keep making terrible life choices. He’s won a Golden Globe for the first season of “Ramy” on Hulu and has now been nominated for multiple Emmys for season two. Ramy Youssef, welcome to WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME.
RAMY YOUSSEF: Thanks for having me.
SAGAL: Oh, it’s great to have you. I just so much love your show. But I’ve been checking in with everybody. Where are you holing up during the pandemic?
YOUSSEF: I’m in LA right now. I was actually here on, like, a two-day visit, and then it turned into – yeah, I’m still here.
SAGAL: (Laughter) And that was how many years ago? We don’t remember.
YOUSSEF: I know, because it was – Hanks got it, and then once Hanks got it, they were, like, we’re shutting this down.
YOUSSEF: So no one – yeah, no one – that, I think, is going to be when we look back in history – the turning point.
SAGAL: When Tom Hanks got sick, yeah – so…
SAGAL: Before Hanks getting sick and after.
SAGAL: I assume you have some elaborate hillside estate because you’re a TV star, right?
YOUSSEF: No. I…
YOUSSEF: Helen knows this. You know, I…
HELEN HONG: I – can I just jump in and say I know Ramy from doing stand-up, and I know Ramy’s roommate? His roommate and I are really good friends. And so I’ve been to Ramy’s place many times. And, Ramy, I don’t know if you still have this, but there was a dude that was living in Ramy’s pantry.
HONG: Like, off of their kitchen, they had this really big, like, closet/pantry where you would fit cans of food. And it was big enough for someone to lie down in. And for the longest time, he had a guy renting out his kitchen closet…
JOSH GONDELMAN: (Laughter).
HONG: …And sleeping there. And, Ramy, when you won your Golden Globe, I texted Paul (ph) and was, like, is Ramy the Golden Globe-winner still living in your house with the dude in the random closet? And he’s, like, yes.
YOUSSEF: Yeah. I mean, one of the first things we did in the pandemic was ask him to leave.
YOUSSEF: It was not – and you would think, well, it’s a pandemic. It’s time to stick together. But really, in a pandemic, it’s time to clean out the closet. And then…
YOUSSEF: We made sure that that happened.
SAGAL: So congratulations on the Golden Globe, which I know a lot of people were shocked by.
SAGAL: I once read that you said your own mother expected, like, Michael Douglas to win it.
YOUSSEF: Yeah, because she was, like, he has more movies than you. You know…
YOUSSEF: That was, like, the…
SAGAL: It was true.
YOUSSEF: She thought it was just, like, cumulative, like, you know, of the whole career. And I’m, like, no, that’s not how it adds up. But yeah.
SAGAL: Well, did she eventually come around to the fact that you deserved it? Or is she still, like, Mr. Douglas is probably very sad he didn’t get it?
YOUSSEF: Yeah, my mom’s just, like, nah, this PC crap.
SAGAL: And now two Emmy nominations – this is really extraordinary. Congratulations.
YOUSSEF: Thank you.
SAGAL: The show, for people who haven’t seen it, is essentially autobiographical. You play a guy named Ramy who is living in New Jersey with his family, as you presumably did for many years. The show depicts your life as you lived it growing up in suburban New Jersey as part of a Muslim family in the community there.
YOUSSEF: Well, probably the closest that it gets to things that felt like my life – in the first season, we have an episode that revolves around middle school me. And I think the rest of the series is very much me imagining this kind of shadow alt version of myself where if I didn’t have a passion, if I didn’t find acting, comedy, if I kind of just played out this very plausible other version of my life, what would that look like?
SAGAL: It’s interesting because you’ve made an autobiographical piece of art that depicts yourself as the loser you’re not, which is the opposite way it usually works, right?
SAGAL: I mean, I…
YOUSSEF: I thought it would be weird if it’s just, like, me charming baristas for 20 minutes.
YOUSSEF: I was, like, this is it. And it’s called “Ramy.” And I’m just, like, did you get a new haircut? And she’s, like, no one noticed. Like…
YOUSSEF: That would be, like, actually sociopathic.
SAGAL: Season two is – it’s – a lot of people say it’s even better than season one, which is saying something. And Mahershala Ali appears in it, got an Emmy nomination for his role. Is it true that he got in touch with you and said, I love your show, I want to be on it? Because he’s a double Academy Award winner.
YOUSSEF: It was more the I love your show part, and then I kind of turned it into, well, how much do you love it?
SAGAL: Really? Prove your love, Mahershala Ali.
YOUSSEF: I kind of made him step up to the plate a little bit. I asked him to be in one, and then he ended up being in six, so it was a really…
SAGAL: It’ll happen.
YOUSSEF: It was really…
SAGAL: That’s sort of like how the guy ended up in your closet. You invited him in for a night, and he never left.
YOUSSEF: I can’t tell you how accurate that is.
GONDELMAN: Because it was Mahershala Ali living in your closet.
YOUSSEF: I’m, like, dude, you’ve won too many awards.
SAGAL: You know, but wait – dude, you got a Golden Globe. You’ve still got roommates. Why not him with two Oscars?
GONDELMAN: Bolstering the door closed with his Oscars.
GONDELMAN: There’s an Oscar on the door, dude. Knock.
YOUSSEF: I told you, when the “Moonlight” one’s out…
YOUSSEF: …I’m with a girl. When the “Green Book” one’s out, I’m working.
SAGAL: Well, Ramy Youssef, it is an absolute pleasure to talk to you. But we’ve invited you here to play a game that we’re calling…
BILL KURTIS: Say Hello To This New Jersey.
SAGAL: As we’ve discussed, you’re from New Jersey. You represent New Jersey. So we wondered, what do you know about other jerseys – specifically, sports jerseys. Answer 2 out of 3 questions about sports jerseys – you’ll win our prize one of our listeners – the voice of anyone they might choose for their voicemail from our show. Bill, who is Ramy Youssef playing for?
KURTIS: Barbara Hoffman (ph) of Burlington, Vt.
SAGAL: All right. Two out of 3 here – not a big deal, multiple choice. Here we go. The Italian powerhouse soccer team A.C. Milan signed a sponsorship deal with a jeans company. That’s great. But the jerseys they had to wear were problematic. Why? Was it, A, the company insisted that the jerseys be made of denim, which chafed; B, the shirts had the jeans company name printed in huge letters across the front, which was POOH; or C, the shirts were so poorly fitted, the team became known as the fighting dad jeans?
YOUSSEF: I’m going to say it’s A, the denim material. Yeah.
SAGAL: You’re going to say it’s A.
YOUSSEF: Feels very Italian, yeah.
SAGAL: It does – makes perfect sense. But, in fact, it was B. They had to wear the shirts with the big name POOH…
SAGAL: …Written on the front. Maybe it doesn’t mean what it means in Italian as it does in English. I don’t know. But…
GONDELMAN: Better front of the shirt than back of the shorts.
SAGAL: True. True.
SAGAL: All right. You have two more chances. This is not a problem. A Greek soccer team took the field a few years ago with the name of their sponsor proudly on their jerseys. Now, who was the sponsor? A, their main rival team, resulting in both teams wearing the same jerseys; B, a local brothel; or C, an angry fan who paid to have the message we suck printed on the jerseys.
YOUSSEF: I’m going to go with B, the local brothel.
SAGAL: That’s exactly right.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
YOUSSEF: Yeah (laughter).
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)
SAGAL: A local brothel sponsored a football team – community relations, I guess.
SAGAL: All right. Get the last one right – you win it all. Among the least fortunate jerseys ever created for a sports team were the ones for which of these teams back in 1905? A, the American baseball team the Traveling Jews; B, the Canadian ice hockey team the Windsor Swastikas; or C, the French women’s badminton team the Mistresses?
YOUSSEF: I’m going to go with C. C is the only one that I can imagine being a real part of our history.
SAGAL: The much-feared Mistresses. Were playing the Mistresses tonight. Don’t tell anyone.
NEGIN FARSAD: (Laughter).
GONDELMAN: You don’t say you’re playing the Mistresses. You say you’re going out to a work dinner.
SAGAL: So I guess what I’m asking you, Ramy, is that your final choice?
YOUSSEF: No. No.
YOUSSEF: Couldn’t be. I’m going to go with B.
SAGAL: That’s right…
(SOUNDBITE OF APPLAUSE SOUND EFFECT)
SAGAL: …The Windsor Swastikas.
(SOUNDBITE OF BELL)
SAGAL: Because it was 1905, right? They hadn’t ruined it by then. It was just an ancient symbol meaning prosperity. They meant well. It was fine. But to see a photograph of the 1905 Windsor, Ontario Swastikas is quite shocking.
SAGAL: Bill, how did Ramy Youssef do on our quiz?
KURTIS: Well, he got 2 out of 3. That is a win, Ramy. And you’re free to use this as a theme on your TV show.
SAGAL: The Emmys and now this in just one short year – or one longest year ever, whichever you choose.
HONG: And you got the dude out of the closet.
SAGAL: Really, now, finally, maybe, having won this, you can finally get your own place to live.
SAGAL: Ramy Youssef is the creator and star of Hulu’s “Ramy.” He has just been nominated for best actor and best director for the show at the 2020 Emmys. Ramy Youssef, thank you so much for joining us on WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME – an absolute joy to talk to you.
YOUSSEF: Oh, man.
SAGAL: Congratulations on an amazing TV show.
YOUSSEF: Thank you, guys, for having me. It’s so good to see you all again.
GONDELMAN: Good to see you.
HONG: Bye, Ramy.
SAGAL: Take care. Bye-bye.
(SOUNDBITE OF HANY SHNODA FARKAT MASER’S “MUSIC LAOUNGA 79”)
SAGAL: In just a minute, Bill’s giving out a brand-new toy car. It’s the Listener Limerick Challenge. Call 1-888-WAIT-WAIT to join us on the air. We’ll be back in a minute with more of WAIT WAIT… DON’T TELL ME from NPR.
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