The @DrBassemYoussef Show
Date posted: November 7, 2011
PUBLISHED IN IDENTITY MAGAZINE – NOVEMBER 2011
Early March 2010, Hala Diab – my friend and Dr. Bassem's wife – posted a link of the first episode of The Bassem Youssef Show – The B+ Show as it was originally called – on my wall on facebook. At the time I was eight months pregnant and my online activity dropped tremendously. I did not watch the show but I left the link on my wall. Within a few days, the episode went viral and everyone was sharing it. Bloggers were writing about Bassem Youssef. More episodes followed that were met with the same success. I got out of my cave and watched that first episode and laughed … I laughed out loud as I enjoyed the satire! A few weeks later I gave birth and was totally sucked into motherhood. In Ramadan 2011 – 4 months later – I was happily surprised to see Bassem Youssef on ONTV's screen! "The Program" became the new name of "B+" and the show maintained its original spirit but developed into full blown 30 minute episodes.
Dr. Bassem says that
Being on television is more demanding because of your commitment to your audience; there are deadlines and a certain number of episodes that people expect to see per week. The online arena is more flexible in that sense.
Censorship is one of the main reasons people flee mainstream media but the good doctor has another opinion
When it comes to censorship, the ceiling is more or less the same; you could say anything you want as long as you know how to present it properly. We had several episodes about the most recent Maspero events and we said what we wanted to say without getting ourselves in trouble.
I monitored mentions of Dr. Bassem Youssef on Twitter, and I realized that you either love his show or completely hate it! The comments ranged from praise or serious discussions to harsh criticism or downright aggression. Bassem prefers being on TV
I don't miss "The Bassem Youssef Show"! Online, I was doing all the work and I reached a very limited audience – a very hostile audience, I might add! Something is seriously wrong with people! I got a lot of hits and comments on the YouTube videos but some people just cuss and curse because they can! Mainstream media is more rewarding in that aspect! No one will stop me in the street to curse me! Whether I am on YouTube or on TV, I put in a lot of effort but television audience is more appreciative!
Other people, like Doaa Sultan for example, pull out videos and make fun of them or of people in them but there is something different about Dr. Bassem's show! Bassem himself as a presenter is different; his body language, tone, facial expressions, and the way he carries himself in general make him a very serious person but his show is funny. This contrast is what makes Dr. Bassem Youssef special. His aura reminds me of actor Abdel Salam El Naboulsy; very serious yet very comic!
In my show, I don’t just make fun of videos; I am not a standup comedian! People are used to shows that are either too serious or too farcical and this is why they cannot categorize us. We do have a message and at the same time we do make people smile! Political satire is difficult to create and more difficult to process. Dr. Bassem explains.
The last episode before writing this piece was on October 15, 2011. Bassem treaded a very thin line as he discussed the recent Maspero violence on Black Bloody Sunday and how official media dealt with the incident. He also discussed how rumors spread in Tahrir Square. The topic is very serious and the actual event is sad but Bassem made me laugh outloud in the beginning of the show when he was introducing Dr. Essam Sharaf's official statement, and said:
"Great news to all Egyptians: Dr. Essam Sharaf is alive and kicking!"
This whip lash of a comment is how Dr. Bassem runs his show!
In that episode he clearly mocked the government's announcement that the armored vehicle which ran down protesters was stolen, that there is a foreign conspiracy behind the clashes, and so forth.
He did not cross any red lines but he skillfully delivered the message: the government is still lying and feeding people lies!
It is hard to predict the future of shows and presenters; some people start with a buzz that fades away with time while others creep on you slowly but surely.
Jon Stewart inspires me! As a practicing surgeon, I never saw myself doing a show but I have always toyed with the fantasy of having my own TV show. Next year, if people still enjoy The Program, we would like to grow into a cross between Jon Stewart and David Letterman – maybe have a show with real live audience!