Bassem Youssef: Egypt's Jon Stewart

Comedian Bassem Youssef tests Cairo’s sense of humor in his wildly popular program modeled after The Daily Show
Photograph by David Degner for Bloomberg Businessweek

The studio lights come up, illuminating a stenciled graffiti panda behind the anchor chair, and the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, bounds onto the stage. The onetime candidate for Egypt’s presidency seems to have buffed up and grown taller, while the eyes behind his familiar tortoiseshell frames are today an unexpected blue. Stagehands stand around giggling and snapping photographs as the impostor is revealed; his laugh is unmistakable, loud, high, and infectious. ElBaradei is in fact television host Bassem Youssef in makeup and a bald cap. He quickly hushes the chuckles, adjusts his lapel microphone, sits down, and addresses camera two in ElBaradei’s quiet, measured tone.

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