December 11, 2013
Egypt's top TV satirist back on air, pokes fun at all political camps
Egypt's most prominent television satirist, Bassem Youssef, known for his fierce jabs at ousted Islamist president Mohamed Mursi, returned to the airwaves following a summer break, poking equal fun at the fan frenzy surrounding Egypt's defense minister that has gripped the nation in recent months.
Youssef rose to fame with a satirical online show after the uprising that swept Hosni Mubarak from power in 2011. His programme, which has been compared to the U.S. satirical comedy "The Daily Show with Jon Stewart", is now broadcast on Egyptian TV.
Youssef had not been on air since July, when the head of the armed forces, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, ousted Mursi in response to nationwide protests against his rule, fuelling speculation the show had been halted for fear of reprisal if Youssef were to make satirical remarks about the general.
But on Friday the comedian, along with his team of entertainers, poked fun at all camps - Mubarak loyalists, Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters who have staged frequent protests since July, and Sisi's fans.
Early in the show, Youssef and others on the programme broke into a comic song-and-dance routine to the tune of the nursery rhyme "Old MacDonald had a Farm", which he said aimed to explain to Egypt's children the country's political events this summer.
"After the revolution we got a president who thought we would be duped", they sang in rhyme in Arabic, with the sound of drum beats in the background. "His Renaissance programme was a terrible idea ... so the people decided to revolt."
Referring to the ruler of the country, Youssef later jovially displayed a projected image of Sisi before quickly swapping it with the image of the interim president, Adly Mansour.
He poked extensive fun at the adulation of Sisi's fans.
"Sisi has turned into ... chocolate!" said Youssef, joking about the chocolate bars that have been moulded to the defence minister's likeness in confectionary stores.
"We're also selling Sisi-fours," said an actor on the show playing a pastry-shop owner, making a pun on the tea cake "petit fours."
Sisi has emerged as a popular figure since July. Posters of him with past Egyptian military heroes who became presidents are ubiquitous. Jewelry carrying his image is sold on the streets.
Military officers are pushing Sisi to run in the country's presidential elections, although the general has not said he would. Many Egyptians believe that if he ran, he would sweep the elections.
"I am not with the (Islamists), who attacked us and called us heretics ... and publicly called for our imprisonment," Youssef said. He had had an arrest warrant issued against him by Mursi's prosecutor general over allegations he insulted Mursi and Islam, but Youssef was later released on bail.
"At the same time, I am not with hypocrisy, deification of individuals and creation of Pharoahs," Youssef said. "We are afraid that fascism in the name of religion gets replaced with fascism in the name of nationalism."