The Laboratory for Global Performance and Politics hosted Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef on September 21 to celebrate the Lab’s integration into the School of Foreign Service. This event was co-hosted by the Culture and Politics Major and sponsored by the Doyle Engaging Difference Program and the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.
Professors Cynthia Schneider and Derek Goldman, co-directors of the Lab, joined Youssef for a conversation on the role of comedy and satire in politics and international affairs. SFS Dean Joel Hellman also took part in the discussion, and Youssef answered questions from students in the audience.
Popularly known as the Jon Stewart of the Middle East, Youssef has become an icon of free speech for his humorous criticism of Middle Eastern politics. A former surgeon, Youssef developed a political satire show (Al Bernameg) that quickly became the most popular television show across the region before it was taken off the air. He has since come to the United States, where he offers his sharp critiques on American politics and culture as the host of Fusion’s Democracy Handbook with Bassem Youssef.
Yousef spoke about the power of comedy and performance as a way to convey a story and work for change.
If you make fun of the corruption, you do love your country – these are not two contradictory things,” Youssef said. “If you make fun, it’s a way of criticism, and a way to make things better.