At the start of the Arab Spring in Egypt, I decided to leave my job as a heart surgeon to become a late-night comedian. We wanted to find a creative, non-violent way to protect free speech and fight a president who abused his power.

I am the subject of Tickling Giants (100% on RT!), a new documentary directed by a senior producer at The Daily Show. You can buy the movie on iTunes starting today! (It's un-rated by the MPAA, just like this AMA.)

You'll laugh, you'll cry, and I'll make 20 cents.

I'm being helped with typing by a kind gentleman at an English-only computer, so questions in Arabic are okay, but things will move faster if we keep things to English.

Edit: Thanks for a wonderful AMA everyone! Sorry I couldn't get to all of you. It was a blast! Please check out Tickling Giants.

Comments: 667 • Responses: 43  • Date: 

I_sick-lonely808 karma

Hi,

What is your reply to all the Egyptians attacking you on social meda and telling you to stop commenting on the Egyptian politics because you left Egypt??

Thanks for this AMA, I hope the best for you Dr Bassem

BassemYoussef2207 karma

The same Egyptians attack people who live in Egypt when they criticize the country and tell them, "If you don't like the country, why don't you leave?"

HounerX610 karma

Hey bassem!!! Is there any chance to see you in Egypt after the elections ?

P.s.

Don't forget to check /r/Egypt أبناء وطنك 😂😂

edit:- yaaaay reddit gold xD

BassemYoussef1268 karma

What elections?

XXISerenaIXX528 karma

Hi Bassem. You are probably on a black list in Egypt and would be arrested if you were to land in Cairo Airport. My question is: Do you want to go back to Egypt and pursue your career there if you are removed from the black list or are you going to continue your career in the US even after that?

BassemYoussef875 karma

I don't think I'm going to be off the black list any time soon so I'm going to focus on doing things here in the States. I don't think there's an actual black list. Everything in Egypt is open for interpretation. There are no rules any more.

Salould522 karma

Hi Bassem , What would be the ultimate advice you'd give to the arab youth ?

BassemYoussef1547 karma

Question everything. Don't let anybody blackmail you by fake patriotism or fake religious doctrine.

costa79486 karma

Hello Bassem. Would you consider hosting your own late-night show here in the States if given the opportunity?

BassemYoussef759 karma

If I am given the opportunity, who am I to say "No?"

costa79445 karma

YES!! Come on HBO, let's make this happen!

BassemYoussef627 karma

Tell them this.

costa79208 karma

Is your 'senior producer' a certain Jon Stewart?

BassemYoussef536 karma

No, Sara Taksler. She worked for 4 years to bring together Tickling Giants. Please watch it!

Sagathor1267 karma

Serious question. Do you think that the revolution did more harm than good? Would it have been better now, if it never have happened?

BassemYoussef584 karma

No, the revolution is just a reaction to an already corrupt regime. If it didn't happen then, it would happen anyways.

madeyemoe200 karma

Whats the reason you stopped the program " Al Barnamij "? Sorry if this is posted somewhere, but I want to hear it from him.

BassemYoussef482 karma

I think I answered this questions 100,000,000 times, but in short - I made jokes, the authorities didn't like the jokes, they shut me down.

Auegro186 karma

Hey a Bassem you came to visit us in Sydney a day after i went off to Egypt :(

anyhow out of all the countries you've travelled to in the last few years which country has been your favourite ?? Also what's your favourite Egyptian meal ??

BassemYoussef285 karma

Sydney

Stuffed grape leaves

Portarossa175 karma

When he finished with The Daily Show, Jon Stewart went to raise animals on a farm upstate. When he left the Presidency, Barack Obama went kitesurfing.

What's the Bassem Youssef plan for what happens when politics grinds you down?

BassemYoussef354 karma

kitesurfing like my boy Obama. Been doing it since 2013.

IAMAThrowawayAMAA153 karma

Hi Bassem, I used to love watching your show every week when it was on the air. Do you have any advice for people who feel like they want to make a difference in Egypt but don't see themselves going back?

BassemYoussef253 karma

Work on themselves to become better at what they do. One day they can go back and serve the country when it's ready for them.

dj_from134 karma

Umm... would you rather fight: one elsisi-sized duck, or 100 duck-sized elsisi?

BassemYoussef285 karma

If I wasn't a vegan, I would eat one elsisi-sized duck.

robots_and_cancer128 karma

Hi Dr. Youssef! Do you think the way that we cover terrorist attacks on US media emboldens extremists (with wall to wall 24-hour coverage)? If so, is there a more productive way?

BassemYoussef252 karma

Unfortunately this is what news cycles do to get ratings. They are in a tough position because if they don't cover it, others will. What emboldens extremists is that people start to change they're style of life and let that change their daily routines.

TakeTheMeatBridge113 karma

[deleted]

BassemYoussef256 karma

Surgery made me a much harder working person, a nerd, a perfectionist.

Both have different challenges - you either have to mess up with someone's life, or you have to live with a life of rejection in entertainment.

miroa1200468 karma

Hi ya Bassem,

Wa7eshna kteer and we miss you on our screen.

Recently there has been talk in Egypt about Khaled Ali running for president against Sisi, while the chances of him winning are slim at best, I think it is good that someone from a revolutionary background is trying to stir something in the stagnant situation in Egypt.

My question is, if you were asked, will you be willing to give support to someone like Khaled? Also how long do you think the situation will stay the same before something changes? BTW, how did you spend the 5 billion :D :D ?

P.S. Hope to see you on a TV show in the States soon, as an Egyptian who lives in Boston, you're making the Egyptian community proud of you.

BassemYoussef112 karma

It's always good to have some activity in a stagnant political scene like ours. However you can't have fair elections when the military is controlling everything and calling the shots. I will still support him out of principle.

behindgreeneyez66 karma

Thanks for doing this--
Like most Americans I grew up without any exposure to Arab popular culture, I want to know is how is Arab humor different or similar to that of American or British comedy?

BassemYoussef143 karma

Humor is a separate language, you can speak English, but not be able to understand humor in English. The same goes for Arabic. Even humor between Arab countries is different. There isn't a fool-proof formula for this.

behindgreeneyez39 karma

I guessed that, but what I meant is what kind of delivery is Arab humor: like dry, sarcastic humor, like aggressive making fun of people humor, or more along the lines of physical comedy.

BassemYoussef123 karma

These are all different kinds of humor that exist in Arabic, same as in English. However, the majority tend to lean towards the physical, obvious comedy. The more intelligent people tend to lean towards dry, intelligent humor, just like anywhere else in the world.

kwassakwassacapecod57 karma

Mar7aba Bassem!

You often mention that Jon Stewart and American political satirists were/are your inspiration and they helped you become who you are today. If you could give any piece of advice to Jon Stewart or any other American satirist (given your own experiences as a comedian in Egypt), what would it be?

BassemYoussef146 karma

I think they're doing fine without my advice.

NerdyR53 karma

Hi Bassem! Have you ever regretted being a Comedian and considered getting back to being a heart surgeon?

BassemYoussef107 karma

Never

csisc199451 karma

Hello Bassem, * I have a final exam of medical signs tomorrow and I still have 400 pages to learn. What did you do if you were in my place? * I ask if you think that you can return to Egypt one day. Also, would you present the Carthage Film Festival Closing Ceremony another time?

BassemYoussef144 karma

Study, and stop logging onto social media.

I hope to return.

If I was invited to host it again I would do it.

Sagathor149 karma

Wa7shak masr?

BassemYoussef146 karma

The Egypt that I miss, in my opinion, is not there any more.

LateKnighterFighter46 karma

Hello! I really like your work <3 My question is: How do you feel the recent tendency of comedians holding back less than they did before the US elections?

BassemYoussef103 karma

It's not a recent tendency. It's always been there. Thank George W Bush for 8 years.

NerdyR45 karma

Hi Bassem, what's your favourite Game of Thrones character?

BassemYoussef154 karma

Tyrion Lannister. How could you go wrong with that guy?

devilschaplain32 karma

Would you consider being a guest speaker at a university in the US?

BassemYoussef71 karma

Sure. I do this all the time.

BlueEyezzz28 karma

Hi Bassem,

Looking forward at watching the show! I became a fan, your sense of humour is great!

You have always been dubbed as the 'Jon Stewart of Egypt' and it cracks me up every time I see that one show where you invite Jon. My question is: was he your sole inspiration for doing your own show? Or did you have other influences that helped you start to become a comedian?

BassemYoussef74 karma

Jon was the main inspiration, followed by Stephen Colbert (who also came from Jon's show). Jon's impact was amazing.

ismailsabry28 karma

Hi Bassem, Masr btsalem 3lek!!

I'm really disgusted by the way many Egyptians accuse you of conspiracy against Egypt just because you made fun of someone. It must have been a bad experience for you and your family. Do you sometimes regret your decisions and wish you just remained a cardiac surgeon?

Also, any chance we'll see a 2nd season of "The Democracy Handbook"? Was the first one a success?

BassemYoussef46 karma

I don't regret my decisions. I think the internet harassment comes with public exposure. There is no second part to The Democracy Handbook.

omarelbass25 karma

What was the biggest culture shock you had when you visited the US? Which one still shocks you?

BassemYoussef139 karma

After living all my life in the Middle East, nothing can ever shock me.

Rohmany24 karma

Do you still have hope that Egypt will be a democratic and free country in the next 10 years ?

BassemYoussef66 karma

Yes. What is happening now is not sustainable.

Lastinline4brain19 karma

What's the best solution to bring peace and prosperity to the middle East, including Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, and dealing with Islamic extremism? Bonus points if it doesn't involve heavy handed US intervention.

BassemYoussef106 karma

Getting our own secular societies that don't answer to religious or military fascism.

omarelbass19 karma

Hi Bassem, Nice to see you back here again. Last time you were here, we made it clear that we are friends :)

I've followed everything you've done especially after El Bernameg. During and after El Bernameg the country was heavily divided.

Do you ever feel that you can go back and do what you were doing again if the circumstances allowed?

Do you think people will follow into your footsteps too if the circumstances allowed. (God damn those circumstances)

BassemYoussef50 karma

For the circumstances to change a lot has to happen, it's not just the change of a president. There's a whole deep state, a whole corrupt institution, and I don't think they're going away any time soon.

ThatsASlipperySlope17 karma

Hi Bassem! Really love your work, and since I know a lot of things about you already (researched), I will ask questions that are unrelated to your occupation(s).

  • How do you like your eggs?

  • What's your favorite English TV Show & Movie?

  • Do you prefer living in the west or back home?

  • How do you respond to hateful comments towards your ethnicity?

  • What's your favorite dank meme?

  • Aside from AMA's, do you use reddit?


That's all, can't wait to see more of your work!

BassemYoussef40 karma

Yes, but I'm vegan.

Frasier.

LA is amazing.

I ignore them.

It changes every 5 minutes.

No

PetMyAfro15 karma

Hey Bassem, love your work.

I am impressed by how seamlessly your humor translates to both Arabic and English audiences. Do you find it just as easy to write or improv comedy bits in English..?

BassemYoussef34 karma

Not at all. I'm still learning the craft.

trackmeifyoucan114 karma

Haven't seen you workout recently ? What do you do for exercise now ? Still a vegan ?

BassemYoussef40 karma

Yes, still a vegan. Trying out yoga and pilates.

Hosamphilalley12 karma

did you struggle in medical school ? I find it incredibly boring and you of all people make me feel that it is not worth it seeing that you had an amazing career as a host I doubt very seriously that medicine really made any impact in your life in the long run .

BassemYoussef41 karma

Everyone struggles in medical school. It's a character builder and helped me in my TV career.

CyanideDose10 karma

In your opinion Dr. Bassem , What's really behind The current Qatar isolation ? and Why the four countries ? And do you think Israel would make a move about that ?

BassemYoussef31 karma

I think involved in it don't even know the answer to this question.

WinstonWolf779 karma

What do you have to say about the current scuttlebutt in the Gulf, in regards to Qatar and it's long, terrible week?

BassemYoussef30 karma

I think it's going to be over before we know it. Compromises will be made, and things will go back to normal very soon.

samuelsamvimes9 karma

1)Do you believe revolution has improved things?

2) Are you worried about extremists(like the Muslim Brotherhood did in Egypt before the military stepped in) are getting a lot of popularity in elections, and if yes what can be done about it?

BassemYoussef31 karma

Revolutions usually open doors. They don't necessarily change things instantly. They're prequels of things to come. They're not done in an instant, they're a long process. They start to question ideologies that trap people into oppression and corruption.

Which elections? In any case, we should stop trying to choose between a military option or religious option. They are two sides of the same coin.

Checkmate82 karma

In your opinion, who do you think is currently most suitable to lead the country after El-Sisi's term is over?

BassemYoussef17 karma

It's not a question of who, it's a question of creating an atmosphere to allow for a decent democracy. No one is asking who is leading Denmark, Finland, or Norway.

thesonofbolia1 karma

Were you forced to leave Egypt or you had a choice? Can you return to Egypt anytime you want? Are you placed on a black list?

BassemYoussef13 karma

I was forced to leave because they were coming to get me. I don't think I can return any time soon. I am definitely at the top of the black list.

mrshadyanwar1 karma

I have read your book and enjoyed it a lot.

Regarding how the Muslim world keep wasting opportunities, in your opinion what do Muslims have to adopt/get rid of quickly in order to move forward?

BassemYoussef17 karma

They should adopt a true secular, democratic system. That's the first step.