Often called the Egyptian Jon Stewart, Dr. Bassem Youssef was the star of a wildly popular television show there that satirized politics in ways that country had never seen. Likely it won’t see one like it again any time soon. The show, entitled, “The Show,” was taken off the air despite high ratings when the former cardiac surgeon’s jibes at the country’s rulers. In addition, Youssef found himself embroiled in a lawsuit with the first network to air his program, and was slapped with a fine that exceeded previous ones by an exorbitant amount. He now lives in Los Angeles doing wat he calls the Hollywood hustle and adamantly refusing to return to medicine.
When I spoke with both him and Sara Taksler, (a former producer of The Daily Show, currently producing The Oppositon with Jorant Kelpper) the director of the documentary about Youssef, TICKLING GIANTS, on October 13, 2017, there were many issues that the film brings up that I wanted to ask about, but I started with a scene early one where Youssef visits a protest and is tear gassed.
We went on to talk about why protest should be celebrated; some surprising fans of the film; the fight over free speech and the importance of dialogue; the bromance between Youssef and Taksler’s husband, Zohar Adner; and how a nice Jewish girl ended up in Egypt filming a political gadfly.
We went on to talk about dual advantages of shooting from a moving car; the power of sarcasm; what happened when a warrant was issued for his arrest; the surreal turn his interrogation took; and his relationship with Jon Stewart.
We finished up with Youssef and Taksler opining about the attraction of the political strongman to the public at large; being airplane certified; and how current events have made Taksler see her film differently.