The Unusual Life of an Average Tango Dancer
A lecture by Bassem Youssef
Bassem Youssef, dubbed the Jon Stewart of the Arab World, was the host of popular TV show Al Bernameg – which was the first of its kind political satire show in the Middle East. Originally a 5-minute show on YouTube, Al Bernameg 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. Al Bernameg 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 Al Bernameg in Cairo marking the second season’s peak.
Throughout its three seasons Al Bernameg 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. The same year, Youssef was named “one of the 100 most influential people in the world” by Time Magazine.
During its third season, the show achieved unprecedented weekly viewership ratings for 11 consecutive weeks. In June 2014, and after a six-week break, Al Bernameg 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.
In the spring of 2015 Youssef served as a resident fellow at the Institute of Politics at the John F Kennedy School of Government for one semester. During his stay in the US he appeared twice as a Senior Middle East Correspondent on the Daily Show with Jon Stewart, commenting on the recent political situation in the region. In 2015 he hosted the International Emmy Awards gala of 2015, as well as the 49th Carthage Film Festival in Tunis. Youssef is also currently hosting a digital series titled “The Democracy Handbook” for Fusion Network, namely on its new digital platform F-Comedy.
Youssef is the star of an internationally-renowned documentary by Sara Taksler entitled Tickling Giants and author of Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring.
Youssef majored in cardiothoracic surgery, passed the United States Medical License Exam (USMLE) and is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS). He practiced cardiothoracic surgery in Egypt for a period of 13 years before moving into comedy and political satirism.