|TV Show Host
| March 22,
He used to work as a cardiothoracic surgeon.
Bassem Youssef graduated from Cairo University’s Faculty of Medicine, majoring in cardiothoracic surgery, in 1998. He passed the United States Medical Licensing Examination and has been a member of the Royal College of Surgeons (MRCS) since February 2007. He practiced as a cardiothoracic surgeon in Egypt for 13 years, until his move into comedy and political satirism. He also received training in cardiac and lung transplantation in Germany, after which he spent a year and a half in the US working for a company that produces medical equipment related to cardiothoracic surgery. In January 2011, Youssef assisted the wounded in Tahrir Square during the Egyptian revolution. Youssef has credited surgery for making him “a much harder working person, a nerd, a perfectionist.”
Inspired by the Egyptian revolution of 2011, Youssef created his first satirical show in March 2011. The initial idea came from his friend Tarek ElKazzaz. Entitled The B+ Show after his blood type, the program, at 5 minutes per episode, was uploaded to his YouTube channel in May 2011 and gained more than five million views in the first three months alone. The show was shot in Youssef’s laundry room using a table, a chair, one camera, and a mural of amateur photos from Tahrir Square that cost $100. The show was a collaboration by Youssef with Tarek ElKazzaz, Amr Ismail, Mohamed Khalifa, and Mostafa Al-Halawany. Youssef 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 traditional media’s coverage of the Egyptian Revolution.
In June 2012, Jon Stewart invited Youssef to The Daily Show for an extended interview, “…I do know a little something about the humour 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 Youssef. The segment was one of the highest in viewership on the Daily Show’s website.
Following the success of The B+ Show on YouTube and the first season of Al-Bernameg on ONTV, Tarek ElKazzaz convinced an old friend, Ahmed Abbas, to join QSoft as chief operations officer and Project Director for Al-Bernameg with the mission of developing and upgrading the show into a multifaceted and global brand. This was done with the help of a team that covered many disciplines, including marketing, operations, legal and public relations. This all helped in developing both Bassem Youssef and Al-Bernameg on all levels and created a global audience. 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 184 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. In November 2012, Al-Bernameg moved from ONTV’s smallest studio to Radio Theatre in Cairo’s downtown. Following the move, Youssef succeeded in increasing the show’s worth by eight times in one year. The second season, which premiered in November 2012 on CBC network, was the first real live audience show in Egypt. The show gained tremendous success through its criticism of former Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, representing the Muslim Brotherhood. Soon after the show started airing, complaints were filed against Youssef, accusing him of insulting Islam, Morsi and disrupting public order and peace.
In March 2013, Bassem Youssef started writing a weekly column expressing his views for Al-Shorouk; one of Egypt’s most prominent and independent daily newspapers.
As Al-Bernameg continued with its growing success, Jon Stewart appeared as a guest on the show in June 2013.
On 1 July 2013 America in Arabic (United Arab Emirates) debuted. He appeared for the second time on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart.
After a four-month break, Youssef appeared on air in October 2013, with a show that stirred much controversy and criticism. In response to the popular criticism and discontent the show caused, CBC, the show’s broadcaster, distanced itself from the show and its creators, and decided to stop airing it on its channels. Meanwhile, more than 30 complaints against Youssef and the show were filed at the General Prosecutor’s office, accusing him of insulting the Egyptian Armed Forces and President Adly Mansour and describing the June 30 protests as a military coup, in addition to disrupting public order and peace. The General Prosecutor transferred some of the complaints for investigation, which were subject to the prosecutor’s decision and judgment.
After a four-month break, Al Bernameg returned to air for its third series on 25 October 2013. The season premiere marked the first broadcast for the show since the 2013 Egyptian coup d’état had deposed Mohamed Morsi from the Egyptian presidency. Youssef criticised both the Morsi administration and the people’s idolization of the Egyptian Defense Minister Abdul Fatah al-Sisi. The following day the CBC network issued a statement distancing the channel from the political stance taken by Youssef. The CBC network issued another statement, and decided to stop broadcasting Al Bernameg because of violations in the contract signed.
On 1 January 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.”
On 30 March 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 named one of the “100 most influential people in the world” by TIME magazine and one of Foreign Policy magazine’s 100 Leading Global Thinkers.
In November 2013, Youssef’s role in the media was recognized by the Committee to Protect Journalists, which awarded him with the International Press Freedom Award, along with three other journalists.
Youssef also wrote newspaper columns, where he tackled taboo subjects such as atheism and questioning the commonly held view that apostasy from Islam should be punishable by death. On March 18, 2014, he faced plagiarism accusations by his readers, and through Twitter, by the original British writer, Ben Judah, who wrote the article for Politico magazine. He later published an apology in El Sherouk newspaper for initially publishing an article without citing any references.
After terminating the contract with CBC, the production company behind Al Bernameg received offers from different TV channels. The third season was scheduled to air during the first quarter of 2014. In February 2014 it was announced that Youssef had signed a deal with the Middle East Broadcasting Center and that they would start broadcasting Al Bernameg from 7 February on MBC MASR. However the program was suspended by MBC during the 2014 Egyptian presidential election campaign, and in June 2014 Youssef announced that he was ending Al-Bernameg as he felt that the political climate in Egypt was too dangerous to continue the show.
Al-Bernameg reappeared on MBC Masr satellite channel on February 7, 2014, achieving unprecedented weekly viewership ratings for 11 consecutive weeks. In June 2014, and after a six-week break, the Al-Bernameg team held a press conference where Youssef announced the termination of the show due to pressure on both the show and the airing channel.
After Al Bernameg ended, the Egyptian police raided the offices of the production company, arresting several employees and confiscating their computers. According to Youssef, the police told producer Amr Ismail that they would continue harassing the company if Youssef did not stop speaking publicly at international conferences. The Egyptian courts then levied a E£50 million fine against Youssef in a contract dispute with CBC. In the verdict, the courts condemned satirical television shows and implied that Youssef was disrupting the peace and inciting public unrest. Fearing he would be arrested if he stayed in Egypt, Youssef fled to Dubai in November 2014.
In 2014, Youssef changed his diet to a whole-food, plant-based diet after realizing that his diet was the main reason for his feeling tired and lacking energy. Youssef is a proponent of yoga and pilates.
In January 2015, Harvard’s Institute of Politics (IOP), at the John F. Kennedy School of Government, announced that Youssef would be a resident fellow for the spring semester.
In February 2015, it was announced that Youssef was collaborating with The Daily Show producer Sara Taksler to launch a crowd-funding campaign for her documentary about his experience, Tickling Giants. Youssef stated that he couldn’t say no to her request to do the documentary as, “at the time, she was working at the Daily Show, and I didn’t want to say no to anybody working with Jon Stewart. So I basically said “yes” to be on his good side, but I discovered it didn’t really make any difference …”
In November 2015, Bassem hosted the 43rd International Emmy Awards in New York City.
In 2015, Youssef received an honorary degree and delivered the commencement address for the College of Online & Continuing Education at Southern New Hampshire University.
In February 2016, it was announced that Youssef had reached a deal with Fusion to produce a digital series, Democracy Handbook with Bassem Youssef. The show premiered online and in a one-hour broadcast special in mid-July 2016.
Tickling Giants, a documentary film about Bassem Youssef directed by Sara Taksler, premiered on April 14, 2016, at the Tribeca Film Festival. John Oliver and Ed Helms were moderators for Q&As at screenings in Los Angeles. It became available for purchase in June 2017. The film is available for streaming on Netflix in 30 countries (excluding Canada and the US as of September 2019). It is not legally circulated in Egypt.
In 2017, Youssef guest-starred in the DuckTales reboot episode “The Living Mummies of Toth-Ra!” as the titular pharaoh.
The podcast Remade in America debuted In early 2018, in which Youssef explores the cultural, political, and social nuances of America from an outsider’s perspective.
In June 2018, Youssef conducted his third Ask Me Anything on Reddit, having previously done so in 2017 and 2015.
In 2019, Bassem Youssef began the YouTube channel PlantBtv. His new online show combines his comedic, medical, and vegan background. It seeks to educate both Arabic and English audiences on nutrition and food science as it connects to health and wellbeing.
Currently, Bassem Youssef is 48 years, 6 months and 10 days old. Bassem Youssef will celebrate 49th birthday on a Wednesday 22nd of March 2023.
Find out about Bassem Youssef birthday activities in timeline view here.