Egypt’s politician skewer, testing the limits of post-revolution satire

March 5th, 2013

Comedian Bassem Youssef may be the revolution’s real star – Published on CBC.ca/news, by Nahlah Ayed, March 3, 2013:

There are plenty of reasons Egyptian politicians can’t stand Bassem Youssef — his takedowns are merciless, his biting jokes are almost always at their expense. Even more painful is the knowledge that this relative newcomer on the political scene has the kind of influence in post-revolution Egypt they can only dream about … //

… Getting sarcasm:

One of the funniest of the Morsi shows— in which Youssef repeatedly embraces a soft red pillow with the president’s face imprinted on it, all the while insisting Morsi is a comforting presence — earned him a legal complaint and an investigation by the authorities for having possibly insulted the president.

In fact, he says he’s currently facing at least a dozen such complaints, though he has not yet been summoned by the public prosecutor.

How these complaints are dealt with will go some way in testing how far freedom of expression has come in post-revolution Egypt.

Have any of these complaints changed his behaviour?

If anything, he says, “we just got even more sarcastic about the president and about everything.” He adds that he no longer even takes the advice of legal advisers who are hired to review his material before it hits the air.

“They do this for my own good and they’re very sincere, but this is exactly what [some] people want us to do: to back down.”

His fans worry about his safety given all that he says — though he claims he has no such fears himself. He does worry though about getting it right in what is a delicate atmosphere.

“When [much] of the material [is] about people killed in the streets, that’s not really funny. It’s very hard actually to find humour and fun stuff amongst all of this pain and bloodshed.”

Youssef has managed to bring some political figures onto his show — including opposition leader Mohammed el Baradei. But will the Egyptian president ever sit in the chair the way U.S. President Barack Obama sat in Stewart’s?

“It is my dream actually to have him,” he says. “Seriously.

“Some people get sarcasm in a bad way. They think it’s about putting your opponent like under the ground, just like BURYING them alive and just like ‘yeah!’ you killed him, and it’s like I really don’t want that.

“Actually I will only be successful if I get people who I criticize and I make fun of in the chair because that is success.”

Do his detractors watch?

“I’m actually surprised that everybody who curses at me, they actually curse and they know exactly what I’ve said in the episode. And they comment on everything that I said. It’s quite weird,” he says.

“Maybe Morsi himself is watching the show and actually having fun. Who knows? I mean I think the guy has a sense of humour, somewhere in him.”
(full text).

Bassem Youssef on YouTube search (most in arabic).

Links:

Egyptian Debt Threatens Tahrir Square’s Promise of Freedom, 6.00 min, on TRNN, by Shir Hever, March 3, 2013;

Kerry Announces $250 Million in U.S. Aid for Egypt, on NYT, by MICHAEL R. GORDON, March 3, 2013;

Egypt: Thousands protest for the return to military rule, 0.28 min, uploaded by RuptlyTV, March 2, 2013: Opposition to democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi swelled in Cairo on Saturday as thousands joined a protest for the return to military rule in Egypt. The call to restore military rule is led by a coalition of liberal parties known as the National Salvation Front, who announced plans on Tuesday to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections in April …;

On Syria and the failure of anti-Imperialist intellectuals, on Jnews Blog, by Shir Hever, Feb 8, 2012.

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