Bassem Raafat Muhammad Youssef (born March 21, 1974) is an Egyptian cardiac surgeon, satirist and columnist, who hosts El Bernameg ("The Program"), a satirical news program broadcast by Egyptian television station Capital Broadcast Centre (CBC). The press has compared Youssef with American comedian Jon Stewart, whose satire program The Daily Show inspired Youssef to begin his career. In 2013, he was named one of the "100 most influential people in the world" by Time magazine.
The B+ Show
Inspired by the Egyptian Revolution of 2011, Bassem created his first satirical show in March 2011 Entitled The B+ Show, after his blood type, the program was uploaded to his YouTube Channel and gained more than five million views in the first three months alone. The show was shot in Bassem's laundry room using a table, a chair, one camera, and a mural of amateur photos from Tahrir Square that cost $100. Bassem used Social Media to showcase his talent and his show gave a voice to the millions of Egyptians who were seething with anger from the hypocrisy of traditional media in their coverage of the Egyptian Revolution.
Al Bernameg season 1
After the success of The B+ Show, Egyptian channel ONTV, owned by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, offered Youssef a deal for Al Bernameg (literally, "The Program"). With a budget of roughly half a million dollars, making him the first internet to TV conversion in the Middle East. The show, which consisted of 104 episodes, premiered during Ramadan 1432 (2011) with Egyptian-American engineer Muhammad Radwan as its first guest. In his show, Youssef has parodied such Egyptian celebrities as show host Tawfik Okasha, composer Amr Mostafa, Salafist presidential candidate Hazem Salah Abu Ismail, and Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency and onetime presidential candidate.In June 2012, Jon Stewart invited Youssef to The Daily Show for an extended interview, “...I do know a little something about the humor business; your show is sharp, you're really good on it, it's smart, it's well executed, I think the world of what you're doing down there,” Stewart said to an Armani clad Youssef. The segment was one of the highest in viewership on the Jon Stewart’s site.
Al Bernameg season 2
The show Al Bernameg was renewed for a second season after a contract with a second channel, CBC (Capital Broadcast Center), which premiered on November 23, 2012. the second season consisted of 29 episodes and has recorded one of the highest viewership ratings on both TV and internet with 40 million viewers on TV and more than 120 million combined views for his show on YouTube alone. Just three episodes into the show, several lawsuits were filed against Bassem Youssef and his show, mainly for "insult and defamation". On the season's premiere, Youssef made the owner and coworkers of his channel the subject of his show, as an assurance that he is granted full freedom of expression, and that no topic was off limits. CBC did not, however, air his second episode, which also featured further criticism of a TV show host who filed a lawsuit against Youssef. The show returned to its regular schedule for the third episode.
The program, which began with a small group working at home with Youssef, moved from ONTV's smallest studio to Radio theater in downtown "Cairo", a theatre redesigned in the likeness of New York's Radio City, making it the first live audience show in the Middle East. The contents of a typical show's broadcast have evolved, which began with a sarcastic take on current political events, and eventually incorporating the hosting of public figures and stars from various fields, as well as various artists' performances.
On January 1, 2013, the daily Al-masry Al-youm reported that an Egyptian prosecutor was investigating Bassem Youssef on charges of maligning President Mohammed Morsi, whose office claimed that Youssef's show was "circulating false news likely to disturb public peace and public security and affect the administration."
Despite all of the controversy it sparks, El Bernameg has been a major success. It is constantly topping the regional YouTube charts, making Bassem Youssef's YouTube channel the most subscribed to in Egypt.
On March 30, 2013, an arrest warrant was issued for Youssef for allegedly insulting Islam and Morsi. The move was seen by opponents as part of an effort to silence dissent against Morsi's government. Youssef confirmed the arrest warrant on his Twitter account and said he would hand himself in to the prosecutor's office, jokingly adding, "Unless they kindly send a police van today and save me the transportation hassle." The following day, he was questioned by authorities before being released on bail of 15,000 Egyptian pounds. The event sparked international media attention as well as a segment on Jon Stewart's The Daily Show in which he declared his support for Youssef, calling him a "friend" and "brother".
In 2013, Youssef was awarded the International Press Freedom Award of the New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists.
Youssef lives in Cairo with his wife, an Egyptian-Palestinian, and their daughter. He works as a cardiothoracic surgeon when El Bernameg is in hiatus. In his capacity as a doctor, he assisted wounded Tahrir Square protesters after the Battle of the Camel.
Youssef also writes newspaper columns, where he tackles taboo subjects such as atheism and questioning the commonly held view that apostasy from Islam should be punishable by death.