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Egypt’s Jon Stewart getting laughs amidst turmoil

December 21st, 2012
01:34 PM ET

By Samuel Burke and Claire Calzonetti, CNN

For years, The Daily Show with Jon Stewart has been one of the most influential shows on American television.

Similar programs have popped up all over the globe, and now it’s Egypt’s turn.

Bassem Youssef is the host of "Al Bernameg,” (“The Program”), and you don’t have to speak Arabic to see the similarities between Stewart and Yousef. Their studios and even their mannerisms look the same.

A trained heart surgeon, Youssef started the satirical show from his apartment and posted his work on YouTube. It became so popular that a major Egyptian channel picked it up.

Youssef is not scared to take on anybody, even Egypt`s new president, Mohamed Morsy, whom Youssef dubbed “SuperMorsi” in a recent program. 

MORE: Daily Show correspondent takes on Muslim stereotypes

His sense is that President Morsy, along with other Egyptian politicians, are accepting the show quite well.

“I think this is actually the best time to have a political satire program in Egypt,” Youssef told CNN’s Christiane Amanpour on Thursday.

“Basically we are the drama queen of the world, with everything happening. We’re kind of the international political soap opera. So it`s a great time and era to have a political satire to comment on everything that’s happening,” he said.

The United States has a well-established constitution to defend freedom of speech, including comedy, but the Egyptian constitution is in turmoil and that worries Youssef.

“The constitution in itself, article by article, is not the biggest disaster. But there are many articles with an area of a potential abuse, which in the wrong hands, (take out they) can actually take the country in a little bit of an unstable political discourse.”

There’s also a separation between church and state in the United States, but in Egypt, speaking out against Islam has already become an issue. Some Egyptians have accused “The Program” of being anti-Islamic.

“I’m proud to be an Egyptian and a Muslim,” he told Amanpour. “My mom is always concerned every time I go on TV. She’s afraid that I’m going to be caught and put in prison. But you know, that’s what moms do. But I satirize. The way it goes down with people, many are actually accepting it. And actually, it’s empowering a lot of people that they think that this speaks on their behalf.”

Youssef met his comedic hero, Jon Stewart, when he appeared as a guest on The Daily Show earlier this year. He excitedly entered the set recording the entrance with a smartphone as Stewart walked up to greet him.

“I continue to be inspired by him,” he said.

And just as Stewart has had President Obama as a guest on his show Youssef hopes to have President Morsy on “The Progam.”

“I would love to have him on my show. I would love to have all of the people who are bothered by my show on my show and we - and maybe my message will be, you know, with satire and with actually making fun of our political agendas, maybe it will ease the tension between us.”

MORE: Christiane Amanpour's interview with President Morsy

Filed under:  Egypt • Latest Episode
soundoff (30 Responses)
  1. hey

    This guy is actually pretty funny.

    December 21, 2012 at 3:35 pm | Reply
  2. amr

    Yes, basem is the best funny man with his tv program ( Elbernameg ).. by the way , all he said is true and actually happened but the others 9 muslim brotherhood are very jealous from him and trying to make him down ..but no way .. GO basem let's laugh about the hidden truth ur telling us with ur funny way..regards

    December 21, 2012 at 3:59 pm | Reply
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    It is very good to know this kind of programm is allowed in Egypt, very different of all we hear about that region. My congratulation to host and all Egyptian people, and one time more I admire you Cristiane (I hope one day to see you in Brazil).

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