Bassem Youssef has always been quite the troublemaker. With his wit, charm, and reason he has found himself a larger audience after facing off with Piers Morgan. Morgan invited Youssef on his show called Uncensored, to share his views on Israel’s devastating crimes on Palestine. Now, Morgan is known to get the best of his guests on his show, but couldn’t surpass Youssef’s genius. Very patiently, and with a smile, Youssef clearly explains why everything happening in Palestine has to be denounced. He even makes Piers Morgan let out the odd laugh in the midst of it all.
Whether or not Morgan underestimated Youssef for granted is only a wonder. During the interview, Youssef whips out a chart that shows Palestinian casualties at the hands of Israeli forces. He even went through the trouble of brushing up on Morgan’s columns on the Iraq war. Youssef is no stranger to research. His journey started a decade ago, making YouTube videos out of his small apartment in Egypt, calling it The B+ show. Youssef and his small team painstakingly went through scores of videos to ultimately craft a 5-minute episode. The subject of the show was Egyptian politics, especially fueled primarily by the 2011 Egyptian revolution.
The former practicing cardiothoracic surgeon had become a public voice, amassing millions of views in only three months of the channel’s existence. And since then, Bassem Youssef has never looked back. Egyptian broadcaster ONTV approached Youssef for a show that went on to be titled Al Bernameg. The show was modeled after The Daily Show, which was a first for Egyptian TV. This was the first instance of an Arab digital personality branching out to traditional media, and succeeding in it as well. Al Bernameg brought in a record viewership to the channel, which retained Youssef’s approach of political satire. The show was known to not shy away from political criticism, and Youssef did not hold back. Al Bernameg thrived with Youssef, with a whopping 40 million viewers tuning in every week.
The second season of Al Bernameg went even bigger than the first, this time shooting in front of a live studio audience. But with success also comes troubles, and Youssef too wasn’t spared. He was quick to be slapped with lawsuits, given his constant criticism of President Morsi. Youssef still went ahead with the show, with the season recording a total of 29 episodes. The third season, however, did not fare well for Youssef. In 2013, Egypt went through another political overhaul, with Morsi being ousted from his presidency in a coup. The now President, Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, was also subject to Youssef’s never-ending tirade of satire. Al Bernameg was then dropped by CBC, and even after getting picked by Saudi based MBC network, it couldn’t survive. Citing that the network didn’t want to “influence voter’s opinion”, the show was stopped for six weeks. Soon after this, Youssef announced that Al Bernameg will be shelved for good, deeming the political situation too unsafe to continue.
In the light of his voice being silenced, Youssef was also being pursued by the administration. This has escalated to a point where Youssef ultimately had to leave Egypt, and is currently based in Los Angeles.
Up until now, Youssef was largely unknown by the West, more so amongst non-Arabs. But in one 30-minute segment with Piers Morgan, Bassem Youssef now has a newfound popularity. He surely tested Morgan’s patience, constantly interrupting him. Morgan tried to play the impartial journalism card, asking Youssef about the proportionality of both side’s actions. Youssef, with his wit, constantly threw light on the ignorance of Israel’s actions that have been going on for years. While joking that his wife is difficult to kill because of her being Palestinian, Youssef indirectly hinted at Palestinian resilience amidst this destruction. The singular most amusing line of Youssef has to be that Israel wants itself to be seen as Superman, when it is in fact, Homelander.
The segment is now the most watched video on YouTube for Uncensored, amassing 21 million views. And overnight, Bassem Youssef became a popular face for the pro-Palestinian narrative. Palestine supporters on social media widely shared clips from this video, sharing laughs while vehemently advocating for their cause. Youssef became so popular that the former television show host was once again interviewed by Morgan. This time, the two spoke face to face, for a two hour-long discussion.
In the second interview, Youssef gets the best of Morgan again. Clad in a qashgabia, He is presented with a bottle of Palestinian olive oil, courtesy of Youssef’s wife. Morgan was handed the most significant symbol of Palestinian identity and resistance. The two truly seemed like two friends reuniting after a long gap, but it was anything far from that. Morgan controlled his laughter in the first interview, but let loose in this one. The interview is a testament to Bassem Youssef – the entertainer who will only speak the truth. Nowadays, Youssef does stand-up shows, his most recent one being in the Sydney Opera House, and was also sold out. Youssef’s rebellion does not end with Morgan. At the show, Youssef brought in a dabke group that performed on Dammi Falastini the clarion call for Palestinian solidarity. As the performers danced, they also brandished the Palestine flag. There was no person in the crowd that wasn’t enthralled by it all.
Bassem Youssef is unafraid. He is resolute in what he says and does, and fights back criticism only if required. But amidst all of that, Youssef is first a human. He can feel the pain of siege in Gaza, and is intensely pained at the loss of more than 11000 civilian lives. See, Morgan has brought in multiple pro-Palestinian speakers on his show to ‘show the other side’ of the story. But Youssef will remain his best-known opponent, that managed to crack Morgan’s stoic armor. And he will continue voicing the truth on Palestine, being one of the few Arabs that the world is willing to listen to.