Egypt's Jon Stewart

Last week, thanks to Zeinobia, I discovered Bassem Youssef, a 37-year-old heart surgeon turned internet phenomenon and would-be scourge of all sycophants and fabricators on Egyptian TV. The segments on his YouTube channel are smart, slick, funny and obviously inspired by his idol, Jon Stewart. 

I had the pleasure of sitting in on the filming of some episodes last weekend. My profile of Youssef is now up at The Daily Beast. Here's a bit: 

"Of course we’re just doing 5 minutes,” he’s quick to point out. “Jon Stewart does half an hour. He has celebrities. He has his own cast of fake reporters and cameras. We do it at home using YouTube material. We’re kind of like the ghetto version of Jon Stewart.”

Youssef, who describes himself as "obsessed with TV," discovered Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert during one of his frequent trips to the United States. Back in Egypt, he watches their shows online.

Hosting an Egyptian incarnation of The Daily Show has been a day-dream for Youssef but before the revolution "there were all these red lines." Those red lines haven’t all been swept away. But in post-Mubarak Egypt—especially online—there’s a heady sense of freedom.

“What happened in the revolution was unprecedented,” says Youssef. “The extent and the magnitude of the hypocrisy and misleading information and misleading the public never happened before and will never happen again. That’s why we have a lot of controversy; we have a lot of material. It was a gold mine.”

You can read the whole piece here; it includes my translation of a few segments of the show. Otherwise, if you speak Arabic, check out all the episodes of the soon-to-be-very-famous Bassem Youssef Show over at his channel. 

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Ursula Lindsey

Ursula Lindsey is the managing editor of the Arabist blog. She writes about culture, education and politics in the Arab world. She lived in Cairo from 2002 to 2013 and got her start at the ground-breaking independent magazine Cairo Times. She was the culture editor of Cairo magazine in 2005-2006 and served as special projects editor at the independent news site Mada Masr in 2013-2014. She is the Chronicle of Higher Education's Middle East correspondent. She contributes to the BBC-PRI radio program The World, and has written for Newsweek, The New York Times, The New Yorker online, Bookforum and the blog of the London Review of Books.