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‘Egypt’s Jon Stewart’ Is Back on Air and Making Waves

Bassem Youssef and his weekly series are more popular than ever with the young demographic

Egypt’s interim cabinet resigned Feb. 24 in a move expected to pave the way for the defense minister, General Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, to run for president, and also likely to set the stage for a standoff between el-Sisi and TV comic Bassem Youssef, known as the Jon Stewart of the Arab world.

The hugely popular Youssef has been back on the air since Feb. 7, after his weekly show “Al-Bernameg” (The Program) was pulled in November last year by private broadcaster CBC for mocking the military-backed government.

With millions of Egyptians tuning in once again to “Al-Bernameg” — this time via satcaster MBC Masr — Youssef waited three weeks before firing off his first direct salvo at the army chief.

The satirist aired a montage of several prominent Egyptian TV personalities rejecting the prospect of an el-Sisi presidency during the show’s third episode Feb. 21. Then Youssef addressed the defense minister: “I beg you, General Sisi, not to stand (for the presidency). Let this one go. People will remember you well for it. This would be an achievement in itself.” Prosecutors are currently investigating new charges by el-Sisi supporters that Youssef insulted the military commander.

Significantly, since he’s come under fire for mocking el-Sisi, Youssef’s popularity has risen, especially among the young demographic. According to a survey by independent Egyptian polling agency Baseera, 68% of respondents 18-29 said they liked “Al-Bernameg” since it’s been back on the air, up from 47% who liked it in October 2013, Ahram Online reported.

It will be interesting to see whether Youssef and his show will stay on the air in the lead-up to presidential elections expected in the spring and beyond.

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