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Bassem Youssef, dubbed the “Jon Stewart of the Arab World”, was the host of popular TV show AlBernameg – a first-of-its-kind political satire show in the Middle East.

 

Originally a 5-minute show on YouTube, AlBernameg became the first online to TV conversion in the Middle East and the most watched show across the region with 30 million viewers every week.

Photo: Axel Dupeux

AlBernameg received wide acclaim around the world with coverage in some of the biggest media outlets, topping it off with Youssef’s appearance on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart twice in June 2012 and April 2013. In June 2013, Youssef hosted Jon Stewart on AlBernameg in Cairo marking the second season’s peak.

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. Youssef was even issued an arrest warrant in March 2013 and turned himself in the next day where he was questioned for five hours and released on bail.

 

 

 

Posters of Bassem Youssef's "AlBernameg" in Cairo, Egypt

In recognition of his success, Youssef was named among the Time Magazine most influential list for 2013 – under the “Pioneers” category, was awarded the International Press Freedom Award by the CPJ, and was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the global thinkers during the same year.

During its third season, the show achieved unprecedented weekly viewership ratings for 11 consecutive weeks.

In June 2014, and after a six-week break, AlBernameg team held a press conference where Youssef announced the termination of the show due to overwhelming pressures on both the show and the airing channel.

Youssef left Egypt in November 2014 due to increased pressure on him and his family. Since then he has been quite visible in various media and academic circles in the US. In the spring of 2015 Youssef served resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F Kennedy School of Government for one semester. In the fall of 2016 Youssef was a visiting Scholar at the Center of Democracy, Development and the Rule of Law (CDDRL) at Stanford University.

Youssef’s most recent projects include Democracy Handbook; a ten-part series exploring topics of democracy on fusion.net, and the launch of a new book, Revolution for Dummies:  Laughing Through the Arab Spring in the spring of 2017.  Bassem has also been the subject of the critically acclaimed documentary movie “Tickling Giants” . In the process of promoting these projects Youssef was hosted repeatedly with Jon Stewart, Trevor Noah, Stephen Colbert, Samantha Bee, Larry King and many more television and radio appearances plus being in numerous publications including the New Yorker.

He has hosted the International Emmy Awards gala of 2015, as well as the 49th Carthage Film Festival in Tunis.

Youssef majored in cardiothoracic surgery, passed the United States Medical License Exam (USMLE) and is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS).  

BASSEM FOR THE ECONOMIST, 2018.

 

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