Bassem Youssef

01.09.13

Leave the Egyptian Jon Stewart Alone!

Bassem Youssef, while not busy being a medical doctor, is apparently the funniest guy in a suprisingly funny Egypt. Yet he's currently facing a lawsuit from an individual unaffiliated with the government. (Apparently in Egypt, that's a thing.) Will he be allowed to continue satirizing his government and society in peace?

In the wake of Mubarak’s downfall and the Brotherhood’s ascent to power, Egyptian TV has seen a boom in Islamist preachers and activists. The paradox is that Youssef has also benefited from the rise of the Islamists. The audience for Youssef’s show, Al Bernameg (The Program), is drawn from an opposition featuring secularists, liberals, Coptic Christians, and even observant Muslims who just don’t want Islamists telling them how to live their lives. The show was picked up by the Egyptian satellite station ONTV in 2011 during Ramadan and this past November moved to CBC, which airs the two-hour-long program on Friday nights. The segments are shot two days in advance on a Cairo stage in front of a live audience—exactly the way American late-night hosts, like Jay Leno and David Letterman, do it. Youssef has consciously modeled his screen persona on Jon Stewart, who invited the English-speaking Youssef to appear on The Daily Show in June.