Accused of insulting Mursi, Egypt’s comedy show turns ‘for adults only’
Egypt’s satirist Bassem Yousef said Friday his controversial show “Elbarnameg” will now be marked “for adults only,” following accusations that he insulted Islamist President Mohammed Mursi.
Egyptian lawyers on Jan. 1 launched a probe against Youssef, often referred to as Egypt's Jon Stewart, for putting the Islamist leader’s image on a pillow and parodying his speeches.
Youssef, a U.S.-trained heart surgeon, took advantage of the media freedom in Egypt following the fall of former President Hosni Mubarak’s regime to ridicule events on YouTube. His show gained fame after it was picked up by private television networks in Egypt.
He now presents his show "Elbernameg" (Arabic for "The Program") on the privately-owned “CBC” Egyptian satellite channel.
In one sketch of the episode, Youssef also lampooned the TV channel, saying it aligned to remnants of the Mubarak regime.
But when a cash machine graphic pops up on the screen next Youssef, an intentional tongue-in-cheek reminder to the host that the channel is paying his wage, he changes course and praises CBC for “inciting the revolution,” joking that the channel is revolutionary after all.
“If Dr. Yousef wants to satirically mock other people’s actions and words, then he must know this is a channel with aims towards democracy, which is why no one should take things personally,” Adeeb said on his talk show which followed Youssef’s.
“But there is a red line, for those who understand the real difference between political satire and what can be legally be seen as an insult and defamation,” Adeeb added.
“Egyptians have a long history as the region's funny men. In many other Arab countries, Egyptians are known as "ibn nukta", or "the son of jokes". The sheer number of jokes from Egypt reveals the importance of humor in daily life,” wrote journalist Megan Detrie earlier this month, in an article about surging “political comedy” in the country.
But has Youssef taken it too far?
Youssef began his show on Friday by announcing: “I forgot to tell you that this show is for adults only…the program might include content not suitable for all ages.”
“[To] those who feel shy, get up now so you won’t be embarrassed by us,” he added.
On Friday’s episode, Youssef recalled Egypt’s faltering economic situation, criticizing President Mursi’s latest speech in which he said the country is not going to become bankrupt.