This event is part of the Pittsburgh Humanities Festival. Learn more about the festival here.
The Joke Is Mightier Than the Sword
Dubbed the Jon Stewart of the Arab World, Bassem Youssef was the host of the popular TV show AlBernameg - which was the first of its kind, political satire show in the Middle East. Originally a 5-minute show on YouTube, AlBernameg 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.
AlBernameg 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 AlBernameg in Cairo marking the second season’s peak.
Throughout its three seasons AlBernameg 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, AlBernameg 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 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. He has recently hosted the International Emmy Awards gala of 2015, as well as the 49th Carthage Film Festival in Tunis.
Youssef’s most recent projects include Democracy Handbook; a ten-part series exploring topics of democracy on fusion.net, and the launch of a new book, Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring in the spring of 2017.
Youssef majored in cardiothoracic surgery, passed the United States Medical License Exam (USMLE) and is a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS).