Between 2011 and 2014, right in the middle of Egypt’s multiple revolutions, Bassem Youssef was creating a revolution of his own – on television. Each week, 30 million people tuned in to watch “Albernameg” (“The Show”), Youssef’s sardonic news program (for comparison, “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart” averaged 2 million viewers).
According to PRI, “The satirical format broke all the rules of Egypt’s state-controlled media. It made fun of Egypt’s political leaders. “ Talking about the impact of the show, Youssef notes that “for decades, maybe centuries in our region, questioning and criticizing has been repressed by either religious or nationalistic rhetoric. Now [Egyptians] are not going to be manipulated by this rhetoric anymore. They’re not going to be brainwashed by it and they can find their own voice.”
In 2014, political pressures forced the cancellation of “Albernameg” and Youssef
was forced to leave his home-country. He now lives in Los Angeles where he is busy rebuilding his career. “I don’t think I’m going to ever get the millions of people following me as I had in Egypt,” says Youssef.
Having lived under dictators his own life, Youssef knows a thing or two about them. “They don’t like being made fun of. They base their legacy on fake respect and on being feared. If you make fun of someone, you’re not afraid of them anymore. This is why they get pissed off. Respect and fear are very important. It’s the kind of ego that, if you’re making fun of me, that means you don’t respect me.”
In Trump, he sees signs that concern him — “like President Trump questioning court decisions, berating the press, and going on a Twitter rant every time someone mocks him on Saturday Night Live.”
Youssef’s latest book is called Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring and be sure to also check out his terrific series called “Democracy Handbook” on Fusion cable channel.