Bassem Youssef, dubbed The Jon Stewart of the Arab World, was the host of popular political satire TV show Al Bernameg, which was the first of its kind 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. Al Bernameg was chosen by South by Southwest as the first and most successful internet to TV conversion story in the Middle East. Al Bernameg’s YouTube channel was the first channel in the MENA region to reach one million subscribers and was awarded the gold button trophy.
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. In recognition of his success, Youssef was named among the Time Magazine most influential list for 2013 – under the “Pioneers” category, was awarded the International Press Freedom Award by the CPJ and was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the global thinkers during the same year.
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.
Bassem was the star of an internationally renowned documentary by Sara Taksler titled “Tickling Giants” featuring Youssef’s story with Al Bernameg and is also the author of the book “Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring” where he gives different perspectives and insights on the Egyptian political scene through the Arab spring and after.
Youssef majored in cardiothoracic surgery, passed the United States Medical License Exam (USMLE) and is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS). Having practiced cardiothoracic surgery in Egypt for a period of 13 years, before moving into comedy and political satirism.
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