Bassem Youssef recounts his journey from cardiothoracic surgeon to political satirist at OZ Arts this month. In The Joke Is Mightier than the Sword, Youssef shares his personal story and his thoughts on the political climate that led to the Arab Spring, its parallels to the current state of American politics, and how propaganda lays the foundation for dictatorial regimes. And he does it by poking fun. Youssef’s live performance is Saturday, November 18 at 8 pm at OZ Arts Nashville.
Dubbed the “Jon Stewart of the Arab World,” Youssef was the creator and host of the wildly popular TV show “Al-Bernameg,” the first political satire show in the Middle East and, with 30 million viewers every week, the most watched program in the region from 2011 through 2014.
Throughout its three seasons “Al-Bernameg” remained controversial for its hilarious and bold criticism of the ruling powers. Accused of being “anti-Islam” and insulting the president of Egypt, Youssef was arrested and interrogated before being released on bail. During its final season, the show achieved unprecedented ratings before Youssef announced its termination due to overwhelming political pressures on the show and the airing channel.
“Bravery comes in many forms, but is often accompanied by sacrifice. Seven years ago Bassem Youssef risked (and in some respects lost) his job security, his freedom, and his personal safety – and that of his family, to actively stand against censorship and religious coercion in Egypt,” said OZ Arts Artistic Director Lauren Snelling. “As an audience for Bassem Youssef’s story in Nashville, my hope is that we can expand our understanding of Arab culture at home and abroad, and identify creative ways of challenging power here in the US wherever free speech is criticized.”
A practicing cardiothoracic surgeon until the Arab Spring in 2011, Youssef’s satirical activism catapulted him to international stardom in a matter of months. Youssef has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, NPR’s Fresh Air, On Point and Weekend Edition, and he hosted the 43rd International Emmy Awards. Youssef created The Democracy Handbook, a 10-part video series.
His current projects include educational discussions around his 2016 documentary film Tickling Giants and his new book Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring. The Joke Is Mightier than the Sword runs approximately 75 minutes, with an audience Q&A following the performance. Youssef will also sign copies of his book.
MARK YOUR CALENDARS: A special concert by world-renowned singer Renée Fleming, inaugurating OZ Arts’ “Chairman’s Choice” series will be presented at OZ on Friday, December 1, 2017. OZ and Vanderbilt Medical Center’s Program for Music, Mind, and Society will present Fleming’s Music and the Mind seminar, where she will discuss the role of music in society, including discoveries that are changing our understanding of the brain, especially for the treatment of cognitive disorders such as Alzheimer’s disease.
The free presentation will take place at the Wyatt Center Rotunda at Vanderbilt’s Peabody campus (1930 South Drive, Nashville, TN 37212) at 4 p.m. on Wednesday, November 29; RSVP at the OZ website.