The Library will be closed on Monday, May 27, 2024, in observance of Memorial Day.

Exiled from Cairo: Humor as Dissent

Bassem Youssef
In Conversation With Kelly McEvers
Wednesday, January 31, 2018
Episode Summary

Bassem Youssef, a satirist who rose to international fame in the middle of the Egyptian Revolution with his incendiary brand of comedy and his knack for unabashedly mocking dictators, has been dubbed “the Jon Stewart of the Arabic world.” In his new book, Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring, Youssef chronicles his transformation from a heart surgeon who filmed YouTube skits in the laundry room of his home to the host and creator of the popular Egyptian television show, AlBernameg (“The Program”). Youssef’s provocative political commentary quickly incensed the authoritarian government, who accused him of insulting the Egyptian presidency and Islam, and he was arrested and interrogated by the police. While his case was eventually dismissed, his television show was terminated, and Youssef, fearful for his safety, fled his homeland. Now living in exile in Los Angeles, Youssef will take the ALOUD stage to discusses his tumultuous—and hilarious—journey through a revolution that illuminates how jokes are often mightier than the sword.

Participant(s) Bio

Bassem Youssef, dubbed the “Jon Stewart of the Arab World,” was the host of the popular TV show AlBernameg – which was the first of its kind political satire show in the Middle East. Originally a 5-minute show on YouTube, AlBernameg became the most-watched show across the region, with 30 million viewers every week. Throughout its three seasons, AlBernameg remained controversial through its humorous yet bold criticism of the ruling powers, which led to tens of lawsuits being filed against the show and its host. In June 2014, Youssef announced the termination of the show due to overwhelming pressures on both the show and the airing channel. Youssef’s most recent projects include Democracy Handbook, a ten-part series exploring topics of democracy on, and the launch of a new book, Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring. Youssef majored in cardiothoracic surgery at Cairo University. During the Egyptian Revolution (2011), he assisted the wounded in Tahrir Square. He has passed the U.S. Medical Licensing Examination and is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons.

Kelly McEvers is a host of NPR’s All Things Considered and of the NPR podcast, Embedded. She was previously a Middle East correspondent for NPR, where she earned multiple awards for her coverage of the Syrian conflict. She has covered the Arab Spring, the war in Iraq, and the Ebola outbreak in West Africa. Her writing has appeared in The New York Times Magazine, Esquire, Foreign Policy, The New Republic, The New York Review of Books, and Slate. Her radio work has also aired on This American Life and the BBC. She lives in Los Angeles.