Top TV satirist back on air in a changed Egypt
By Sarah El Deeb and Lee Keath, APCAIRO -- Egypt's most popular TV satirist, famed for mercilessly skewering the former Islamist president on his weekly program, dove headfirst back into stormy politics Friday after four months off the air amid the turmoil surrounding the country's coup. His new target for mockery: the over-the-top, pro-military fervor sweeping Egyptians.
October 27, 2013, 12:01 am TWN
Bassem Youssef, the man known as “Egypt's Jon Stewart,” returned to the air in a radically different nation, where satirizing the leadership is a far trickier task.
When his final show of last season aired, the president was Islamist Mohammed Morsi — Youssef's favorite target. For months, the satirist flayed him and his Islamist supporters for mixing religion and politics and for botching the governing of the country. Soon after the last show, massive protests began against Morsi, paving the way for the military to remove him on July 3.
Since then, divisions have grown deeper and hatreds stronger. Hundreds have been killed in crackdowns on protesters demanding Morsi's reinstatement. Attacks by Islamic extremists against security forces and Christians have increased. A nationalist fervor gripping the country has elevated the military to an untouchable status, leaving little tolerance among the public or officials for criticism, particularly of military chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, lionized in the media as a hero.
So the question was hanging over Friday's episode of “El-Bernameg” — Arabic for “The Program”: Will Youssef mock the military-backed leadership and its supporters as sharply as he did Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamists?
His answer: With song and dance and rapid-fire jokes, Youssef satirized el-Sissi-worship — even with innuendos about how the extravagant shows of love for the general have become outright sexual. Youssef imitated the general's soft-spoken, affectionate way of addressing the public, turning it into a lover's romantic groove.
In one skit, a woman named “the Public” calls into a love advice show raving about the love of her life who saved her from an abusive husband.
“He's an officer as big as the world,” she cooes adoringly, punning on a slogan el-Sissi uses in nearly every speech — “Egypt will be big enough to face down the world.” Then she adds, “He does have a sovereign streak.”