You might just have to call Bassem Youssef, the grand mufti of political satire in Egypt.
He might be Egypt’s answer to Jon Stewart, and Youssef doesn’t deny being inspired by the American satirist, but his access to hypocritical coverage of the country’s affairs offers him the kind of material that might make even Stewart drool. America’s very own political satirist, Jon Stewart, invited Youssef to attend the Daily Show last night, signing his autograph with “to Bassem Youssef, my hero.” Youssef, who originally visited the show to learn more about its behind-the-scenes operations in order to import them to Egypt, gladly accepted the invitation. As a guest on the Daily Show, it may look as though Youssef has reached the pinnacle of international fame. Don’t judge too soon however, wait until you get a hold of his number-one competitor. Tawfik Okasha,Youssef ’s number one back-up plan in case of a slow news day. Definitely more worrisome than Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck and the Duke of Edinburgh rolled into one, Okasha is a good idea whenever you feel like entertaining yourself with fresh-from- the-oven conspiracy theories.
Okasha’s strategy is a mixture of defamation, conspiratorial explanations and a pinch of theatrical performance. Don’t be surprised if you find him warning you about the Freemason takeover of 13/13/2013, declaring it as the end of the world. The news Okasha has to offer is too urgent to wait for mere fact-checking.
For every atrocious attack against pro-revolutionary protestors, Okasha has a deft explanation. According to Okasha, the woman protestor who was stripped of her ‘abaya’ (also known as the “girl in the blue bra”) by army soldiers during the clashes of Mohamed Mahmoud Street deserved what she got for wearing such an obscene outfit without an undershirt.
“Who would wear a ‘abaya,” commando, in this freezing cold unless she’s hot with liquor?” delivered Okasha without flinching.
But Okasha isn’t just fodder for jokes and out-of-the-box enlightenment. What alarms many about Okasha’s show – despite frequent outbursts of laughter that are hard to control is the fact that even some of his most extreme suggestions connect with many Egyptians.
Okasha speaks to those who miss the mouthpieces of the ousted president’s regime. Yet, unlike the much-reviled state television,Okasha maintains a high viewership of devoted followers of his conspiracies. It might resemble how many Americans feel about right-wing pundit Glenn Beck.
Although always on the lookout for Okasha’s latest gifts –because to a sati- rist, Okasha’s tirades really are priceless- Youssef still lacks the same level of influence on the average Egyptian citizen. Despite his the Daily Show invitation, where Youssef can highlight Okasha’s idiosyncrasies all he wants, it still won’t resonate with large audiences the way Okasha does.
Youssef also hasn’t yet found strong footing the way Iran’s “Parazit” -a satirical program which mocks Iran’s repressive regime- has with its viewership.The popularity of Parazit only grew with the release of a counter show,“Just for your information,” produced by Iranian State TV to quell “Parazit’s” success.
Still Youssef ’s show stands strong against Okasha’s theories. Unlike our Iranian example, however, Youssef has not had much success proselytising Okasha’s viewers.