Stand-up comedian, actor, screenwriter and director: Rising star Ramy Youssef on how he got into showbiz | CBC News (2024)

British Columbia·Q&A

American stand-up comedian, actor, screenwriter and director Ramy Youssef has been busy, having debuted his second comedy special on HBO, directed an episode of the hit series The Bear, co-starred in the Oscar-winning movie Poor Things and hosted Saturday Night Live all in the past few years. Now, he's coming to Vancouver.

Youssef set to perform stand-up on July 26 in Vancouver

CBC News

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Stand-up comedian, actor, screenwriter and director: Rising star Ramy Youssef on how he got into showbiz | CBC News (1)

Ramy Youssef has been busy these past few years.

The American stand-up comedian, actor, screenwriter and director went on tour, debuted his second comedy special on HBO, directed an episode of the hit series The Bear, co-starred in the Oscar-winning movie Poor Things and hosted Saturday Night Live.

Not to mention creating and starring in his own Hulu series, Ramy, based on his life.

"When you say it all together, it sounds really cool, but it's just a bunch of stressful weeks," he said with a laugh during an interview on CBC's The Early Edition.

"Life is a dream, man. This life's a dream."

This month, he's bringing his comedy to Vancouver. He spoke with CBC ahead of the show.

WATCH | Ramy Youssef on his rise to fame

Stand-up comedian, actor, screenwriter and director: Rising star Ramy Youssef on how he got into showbiz | CBC News (2)

Poor Things star Ramy Youseff brings stand-up show to Vancouver

3 days ago

Duration 14:38

Comedian and actor Ramy Youssef has had a busy few years: he was in the Ocar-winning film Poor Things, directed an episode of hit show The Bear, and hosted Saturday Night Live. Youssef, who is now set to perform his stand-up comedy show in Vancouver, spoke to CBC's The Early Edition host Stephen Quinn about his busy schedule.

This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

How do you manage such a jam-packed schedule?

I definitely have had plenty of years where nothing was happening at all or years where you thought something was going to happen and it doesn't. In two, threeyears, you have no idea what the hell is going to be happening either. So you kind of try to enjoy it when stuff's going on and just be really grateful for it.

How did you end up in Poor Things?

Yorgos Lanthimos is a very sick individual. Out of his mind. Disgusting. I think he saw my show and said, 'This guy's kind of gross too' and then gave me a call.

He's genuinely a director that I have loved. There's no review of a Yorgos film that would mean anything to anybody because everyone's going to have a different point of view.

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He is so specific. He never phones anything in. He knows what he wants, and he loves making things. I can't imagine the guy ever making somethingbad because I know that he just cares too much about the craft. It was very surreal to get to be a part of that.

Andthe crew and cast, such a great cast ofpeople who I've been watching my whole life that I got to act across.

You're on a first-name basis with all of them now, by the sounds of it?

Willem makes me say, Mr. Dafoe.

When did you start getting into comedy?

I started early, but as jokes, right?I didn't know anyone who'd ever made it a career. I didn't think that that was possible. I just felt like I actually had to mad rush to create things because I thought I gotta do this before I have to go to law school. I have to do this before that law school day comes. And by the way, when I say law school, I was on no track to actually be there. It was just a vague idea of maybe something that could be plausible for my parents to say to our family in Egypt that I was doing. I barely made it through the first year of university.

  • QHow Ramy Youssef finds humour in religion — and his own Muslim faith

How did your parents feel about you choosing comedy as a career?

I think my parents are such fans of cinema and art. They watch everything. They watch more than me. My dad will tell me about movies and shows. I think they were always really happy, but they kind of were like, at some point, you're going to finish school or do this or do that.

But I think it came from a place of not being able to fathom that there was a career to be had in doing this kind of work.I grew up in Jersey, and it's not like I had grown up with kids who had parents in the industry or something. It was all like a mystery to me.

Your series, Ramy, is based on your life. What was it like for you to share that with the rest of the world?

My buddy Steve Way, who I grew up with, he's my buddy in the show.We've known each other since second grade. It was super surreal to make a TV show with him all these years later.

A lot of the show is inspired by things from my life, but a lot of it is super fictionalized.

  • Point of ViewI had to change my Arabic name to make it as an actor. Now, I'm reclaiming it

What is it like for you to be doing stand-up now after everything you've done over the past couple of years?

I just shot a special, and to be honest with you, my Vancouver show … I cancelled Vancouver a few times, and I felt bad, and I cancelled San Francisco a few times, and I felt bad. I don't even know what I'm going to do because I've already burned my whole hour. Vancouver is just gonna be me figuring out what kind of stand-up I've got right now and building up something new.I'm not even in the midst really of a real tour. I'm truly just coming there to loiter.

You've been vocal about what's been going on between Israel and Gaza right now. You could be seen as very brave, given some of the backlash that artists have received for speaking out against that war.

This has been a part of my art, my life for a really long time. Anyone who's watched the Ramy series, we went to Palestine (Palestinian territories) in our third season. Anyone who's watched our show, Mo, it's about a Palestinian refugee living in Texas.

It was super easy to say, hey, we need a ceasefire. We've never looked back at a bombing campaign and said, hey, that was great. Super easy to wear a ceasefire pin. It's actually the bare minimum. History always tells the truth, and there's never been a valid political opinion or a valid human opinion that didn't have controversy in its time. But that's just because people need to kind of look at the world in a different way.

The least we can do is talk about it.

No one is saying that there haven't been incredibly horrific things that have happened. And like any human life that's lost, it is incredibly tragic. I think that there's just a kind of wild dehumanization where we're okay with brown people being killed en masse. That's been true for a really, really long time, like a really long time. I think that's something that we've grown up with and it's something we try to reckon with and figure out.

With files from The Early Edition

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Stand-up comedian, actor, screenwriter and director: Rising star Ramy Youssef on how he got into showbiz | CBC News (2024)
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