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Cairo 360 Presents: The Bassem Youssef Show (B+)

Cairo 360 Presents: The Bassem Youssef Show (B+)
written by
Soraya Morayef

Throughout the eighteen days of January 25th
revolution, Egypt’s state media played a definitive role in spreading
propaganda and misleading information about the revolution, to the point that
public opinion was affected and violence was incited against pro-democracy
demonstrators. Over the past two months, figures like Amr Moustafa, Talaat Zakaria, Affaf Shoeib and Tamer from Ghamra have become
household names; not just for their ridiculous statements and outright lies; but
also for the hilarity of their appearances.

Enter Bassem Youssef, a 37-year-old heart surgeon from
Cairo who launched his own YouTube Channel, B+ The Bassem Youssef Show; to take on the hypocrisy of Egypt’s media in a political satire à-la Jon Stewart.

If you’re not one of the 21,000 Facebook fans or the
nearly 750,000 people who have viewed his six YouTube videos, this is what
you’ve missed:

Episode One took on the Egyptian State media’s attempt
to spread fear and conspiracy theories about Tahrir Square and the protestors,
including the KFC meal theory, while Episode Two focused on actor Talaat Zakaria’s claims
that Tahrir Square was full of deviant behavior and people of poor repute.

Episode Three tackled (the respectable, intellectual, educated, great artist)
singer-songwriter Amr Mostafa. Affaf Shoeib and her quote about Bizza Bel Kabab
was the victim of Episode Four, while Episode Five focused on Tamer
from Ghamra.

If none of these names sound familiar to you, then Bassem
Youssef’s show is here to remind you of the hilarious but quite serious
accusations that these people made during the revolution. In every episode, Youssef hits it on the nail with his subtle humour, sardonic smile and straight face in a refreshing, entertaining and educational way.

‘I’m not a stand-up comedian,’ he told Cairo 360, ‘the
goal of my show is to make people think and remember the misleading media
during the revolution.’

Like millions of Egyptians, Youssef was moved by the
January 25th revolution and contributed by collecting donations,
delivering blankets and even helping out at the Tahrir field hospital. Having
witnessed the essence of the Tahrir spirit and the revolution, Youssef made it
his personal mission to archive the media’s lies and hold them accountable.

‘I believe if you’re going to go on TV and say
nonsense, you should pay for it,’ he said, ‘Especially if you’re an influential
character and if what you’re saying is going to affect people. So if you’re
going to get the perks of being a celebrity, you should pay for whatever damage
you do to the people.’

This inspired Youssef to start writing the script for
his show, and his friend Tarek Azaz, one of the few Middle Eastern partners in
YouTube, encouraged him to have it produced. Youssef is the only amateur on the
show’s team; director Mohamed Khalifa, Producer Amr Ismail and D.O.P Tarek
Abdel Hamid are all seasoned professionals who previously worked on the video
clip for ‘Sout El Horreya.’

With his show being the number one subscribed YouTube
channel
in Egypt, Youssef admits that the whole team is surprised by the
show’s instant success: ‘We had a plan that maybe in one week we’d get 10,000
hits for our videos,’ he laughed.

It’s easy to relate to Youssef’s show because he’s
funny, he tells it like it is, and avoids vulgarity. ‘I’m a little outspoken,’
he said, ‘I’m not sleazy. I’m just saying what everyone wants to say [about the
media].’

A lot of preparation goes into the Bassem Youssef
Show; for every five-minute episode, Youssef watches up to ten hours of YouTube
video for research. The show is filmed in a spare room in his flat, much to the
dismay of his very patient wife: ‘We film on Fridays, which is her cleaning
day,’ he added sheepishly.

Youssef is in talks with several TV stations and
production houses to air his shows on TV, but insists that he will only agree
if he has a great writing team and if the show won’t be about cheap laughs.

‘I
will fail if I’m on my own, I will run out material,’ he said. ‘To continue I
need a team of clever writers and producers.’

With the next episode coming out this Monday,
Youssef is interested in branching outside of Egypt, but pointed out that
figures like Gadafi are easy targets. Instead, he’s looking for material, where
the ‘videos speak for themselves’ and allow for his subtle political
commentary.

While no public figure is safe from Youssef’s satire,
the one topic he remains cautious about tackling is religion: ‘It’s a very
sensitive topic so it has to be well written,’ he said. He is committed to
showing extremism from both sides, and is careful not to associate himself with
one political movement or ‘side’ to the story.

‘I don’t want to alienate people; so that when I
express my opinion, they say ‘Yeah, he’s credible,’’ he said.

Born Bassem Raafat Mohamed Youssef, he is a graduate
of Cairo University’s faculty of medicine in 1998. Having lived in the US and
Germany for a few years, Youssef returned to Cairo over a year ago. Aside from his work
as a heart surgeon, he is an avid sports fan, enjoys rock climbing and tango.
He named his show B+ after his blood group and also because his message
is to remain positive throughout everything. He is a big fan of Jon
Stewart and has never dyed his hair.

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