Bassem Youssef narrates his documentary "Tickling Giants"

Bassem Youssef talks about the political history of Egypt in his documentary 

“We are the voice of the people, ” comedian and idol, Bassem Youssef stated.

Imagine being thrown into a prison for expressing your opinions. Just a few years ago, this was exactly what was happening in Egypt until a comedy show helped revolutionize and unite an entire country.

“Tickling Giants” is a documentary that tells the story of Bassem Youssef, a man who stood up for freedom of speech and press. This documentary was shown at Grafton Theater last week and can be viewed at various festivals and community screenings.

Youssef gave up his job as a cardiologist to follow his dreams of being a comedian. He’s known as the Jon Stewart of Egypt, being that he created the first satire series titled “The Show” in Arabic, similar to “The Daily Show.”

He exposed human rights violations and mocked previous President Mubarak and current President Sisi using his witty sense of humor, which didn’t go unnoticed. Nobody ever dared to ridicule the regime, especially not on national television. More and more people began to idolize him and “The Show,” which quickly popularized throughout Egypt. However, the presidents that came into power during the broadcasting of “The Show” didn’t find his mockery amusing. Youssef was threatened numerous times and was even taken to court. Yet, he so eloquently stated “when you go after a joker, the joke is on you.”

“Tickling Giants” is both educational and entertaining. It’s also narrated by Bassem Youssef,  himself. His witty comments directed at his personal life, along with his life as a comedian kept the audience engaged. He formatted this documentary as a timeline, stopping to give the audience information on Egypt’s current political ruling and cracking a joke or two. This  allowed the audience to laugh along with him while learning more about Egypt’s presidents and the revolutions that came with them.

For example, Youssef and his team created a parody song and dance satirizing how President Sisi is praised and held to the highest regard but his oppression of the people persists. Chocolates were even being sold with his face on it, which was also turned into a comical sketch. However, not too long after these episodes premiered, “The Show” was forced to be taken off the air.

“The Show,” along with Arab Spring, a movement initiated by millennials that forced President Mubarak to step down, changed the political climate of Egypt, but not for long. Outraged, the people demanded change. Protesters were tear-gassed and gunned down by the dozens; “It was like 9/11 every day,” Youssef stated.

Footage of this was shown and explained in the documentary. “Tickling Giants” humanized a revolution I’ve never heard about. Furthermore, it told an inspiring story of one man’s passion to make others laugh that impacted an entire country.

Kate Formeller is a junior social work major. Contact Kate at forme2ka@dukes.jmu.edu.