On Sunday night, at the same time President [Abdel Fattah] Al-Sisi’s address to the nation, prominent Egyptian satirist Bassem Youssef participated in Reddit’s AMA (Ask Me Anything).
For those unfamiliar, Reddit’s AMA is a place where users are free to ask known figures whatever questions they would like answered.
Youssef responded to a number of diverse questions over a period of two hours, that touched on everything from his views on current Egyptian politics, the Islamic State of Syria and Al-Sham terrorist organisation (ISIS), to whether he will resume his hit television series “Al-Bernameg”.
When asked what inspired him to become a satirist, Youssef said that it was the “hypocrisy and the lies that people saw in the media in the 18 days (of the Egyptian uprising in 2011), and how different it was, and how far from the truth it was for people who actually went to the Square. I felt that it was someone’s duty to document this on video.”
Youssef further addressed rumours of whether he will take over for US satirist Jon Stewart after he steps down from the “The Daily Show” and he said: “It is a dream that I don’t think will ever come true. I think I have a better shot of becoming the first Middle Eastern President of the United States than getting The Daily Show!” Bassem also went on to say that, at the current moment, he’s leaving the medical field behind to focus on entertainment.
He told people on Reddit that his “next project is working with Arab talents across the Arab world in order to fulfil their own dreams through digital media”.
When asked what his thoughts on ISIS were and the recent call to attack the Mall of America, Youssef was quite vehement in his response. He said: “ISIS are a bunch of – expletive – lunatics. And they should be treated as such. The people who are calling for the bombing of shopping malls are equally – expletive – nuts”.
Youssef, who actually got his start by making five-minute long YouTube videos before landing his own televised show, was asked if he intends to go back to the web where he will not feel pressure from his critics.
The satirist made it clear he will not be launching a show on YouTube. His reasoning is it would be a step backwards, saying “that people who had followed the programme on the live show have some expectations for the performers and the quality of the programme”.
“Going back to YouTube would be a step backwards, and it would be disappointing for so many people expecting a certain level of performance,” he stated.
He further added that ending the programme “is a message louder than anything that could ever be said”.
One individual informed Youssef that his parents, like many people in Egypt, are of the belief that the comedian is a US agent who actually hates Egypt. Youssef’s responses were clear; he enumerated all the labels his critics have attacked him with: “A traitor, a Zionist, an enemy of Islam and, when the regime changed”, people went to say that he is “a hater and an enemy of the army”.
For Youssef, this is very confusing because he doesn’t know how so many accusations can be packaged into one person. He added that “at the end of the day, it seems that most of the people throwing these accusations have absolutely no sense of humour”.
The heart surgeon turned political satirist is currently undergoing a fellowship at Harvard University. He is also helping raise funds for the documentary “Tickling Giants” on free-speech in the Middle-East, which was directed by senior-producer at “The Daily Show with Jon Stewart”, Sara Taksler.