Where did Egypt’s sense of humour go? Satirist Bassem Youssef shares his insights

Where did Egypt's sense of humour go? Satirist Bassem Youssef shares his insights

Last week, Egyptian social evangelist, Bassem Youssef, took to Reddit to participate in an AMA (Ask Me Anything) session. A cardiac surgeon turned satirist and columnist, Dr. Youssef was named as one of TIME Magazine’s ‘100 Most Influential People In The World’ in 2013. His YouTube channel was once the most subscribed to in Egypt but fearing for his safety, he subsequently cancelled his weekly satirical chat show Al-Bernameg, which aired on the channel.

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The climate surrounding freedom of speech has been worsening in Egypt for quite some time, particularly since President Mohamed Morsi was ousted by the current President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi. 20,000 people have reportedly been jailed for speaking out against his regime.

Bassem Youssef has devoted endless time to advocating human rights, not just in Egypt but globally. Although he often does this with his trademark satirical flair, he also teaches at Harvard’s Institute for Politics, is the subject of a documentary, and is now the new Middle East correspondent for US satirical programme, ‘The Daily Show with Jon Stewart’. Dr Bassem Youssef is an inspirational trailblazer with much to say. Check out some of his Reddit AMA responses below:

On future plans and returning to Egypt

“I’m staying in the US until I finish my residency at Harvard at the end of the spring break and then I will go back to Dubai, where I reside at the moment.”

“I’m taking a break and focusing all my attention in supporting the documentary.”

“My next project is working with Arab talents across the Arab world in order to fulfill their own dream through digital media. And if you support my documentary, you will definitely see me soon!”

On rumours his satirical TV comedy Al-Bernameg will be relaunched in Dubai

“There are so many rumours that have been circulating about me, including that I am a secret alien. But as you can see – all of them are not true.”

On whether we’ll see more appearances on ‘The Daily Show’. Could he take over hosting the show when Jon Stewart steps down this year?

“Well, I’m here in Boston! I’m 4 hours away by train from New York, if they want me, they know where to find me…”

On whether he would consider taking Al Bernameg back to YouTube, where he launched the show

“People who had followed the programme on the live show have some expectations for the performers and the quality of the programme. Going back to YouTube would be a step backwards and it would be disappointing for so many people expecting a certain level of performance. Doing a show is not a single-handed effort, it is doing it with a whole team, and it is difficult to get this team to change their mindsets from performing onstage and getting it back on YouTube.”

“I have said before, in my press conference as we were ending the programme, that banning the programme is a message louder than anything that could ever be said.

And we stand by this.”

On how he became involved with the documentary, Tickling Giants

“I got involved by being harassed by Sara Taksler, to be the subject of this documentary. I couldn’t tell her “no” because at the time, she was working at ‘The Daily Show’ and I didn’t want to say no to anybody working with Jon Stewart. So I basically said “yes” to be on his good side but I discovered it didn’t really make any difference, so if we went back in time, I would perhaps have second thoughts about being in this documentary, but now I am amazed at the kind of work Sara has put in, documenting my experience to put it in the archives of history.”

On regrets about agreeing to Tickling Giants when he could, perhaps, have settled into a cosy academic career

“No, I don’t regret at all having gone through this journey. It gave me the chance to meet wonderful people and have wonderful fans like you.”

On his hopes for the public’s response to the movie

“I hope that people’s response will be in the form of understanding this era of Egyptian history and understanding the importance of political satire in promoting free speech.

And also, it’s quite entertaining, so I hope you are entertained!”

His advice for Egyptian youth

“Eat well, brush your teeth and be kind to your fellow Egyptians.”

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