A viral episode of ‘Piers Morgan Uncensored’ shows why Egyptian comedian and TV host Bassem Youssef is known as the ‘Jon Stewart of the Arab World’
A good, savage roast: that’s what the millions who have watched Egyptian comedian and TV host Bassem Youssef masterfully skewering British presenter Piers Morgan during an interview — that has taken the internet by storm — would conclude. In a stunning display of dark humour, oratorical brilliance, and grace in the face of provocation, Youssef took Morgan to ‘school’ during a discussion over the Israel-Hamas conflict in his own inimitable style on the show ‘Piers Morgan Uncensored’ on Monday (October 16).
When I stumbled upon a short clip, it compelled me to watch the entire interview. If you have seen it already, you will know why they call Youssef — creator of ‘The Program’, the most popular television show in Egypt’s history — the ‘Jon Stewart of the Arab World.’ If you haven’t, go watch! The verbal fisticuff — a Bassem Youssef masterclass in the art of giving interviews, with a dash, no dollops, of radical and ruthless candour — will make your day.
Agreed, Youssef resorted to a little bit of theatrics to hammer his points home, but mostly it was what he said, and the manner he said it, that left Morgan red-faced. Though he can usually hold his own during his show, Morgan found himself hilariously outgunned by Youssef’s virtuosic blend of biting satire, coupled with gestures, facial expressions, and fact-based emotionally charged retorts.
Deaths of Israelis vs Palestinians — ‘what’s the exchange rate?
Morgan began the discussion with a question about Hamas attacks on Israel, and Youssef’s response was nothing short of legendary. While acknowledging the seriousness of the attacks, the quick-witted comedian pivoted swiftly to discuss the plight of Palestinians in Gaza and the civilian casualties they’ve suffered amid Israeli retaliatory carpet bombing.
When Morgan suggested that while Israeli authorities have vowed to eradicate Hamas, it would be difficult to eradicate it “without massive, colossal damage” that results in mass deaths of the innocent civilian population of Gaza, Youssef responded, again in the same acerbic tone: “So, if I can understand this correctly, basically Israel is doing this to pressure the Palestinian community in Gaza to turn against Hamas, is that right? This is exactly what terrorist organisations do.”
That’s when things got really spicy. Youssef added: “Terrorist organizations would have no chance beating a whole nation in battle. So, they terrorize and kill the civilians in order to spread fear and terror so (that) they (the civilians) can turn against their government to change their policy or to resign. “You have just compared Israel with ISIS,” he told Morgan. Morgan rejected the proposition that his words carried such a heavy implication. However, Youssef went on, speculating what the big headline in newspapers the next day would be: “Piers Morgan: Israel is ISIS.” Ouch! On the question of ‘proportionate response’, Youssef said, “What’s the exchange rate (of Israelis vs Palestinians killed) today so that you guys would be happy?
‘Palestinians never die. They always come back.’
Adding a personal touch to the political debate, he mentioned that his wife’s relatives’ house had been bombed in Gaza, Youssef quipped, with a straight face: “It’s very repetitive. We are used to that... It’s just like those Palestinians are very dramatic, ‘Oh, Israel is killing us.’ But they never die. They always come back. They are very difficult to kill. I know because I’m married to one. I tried many times, couldn’t kill.” He didn’t stop there, adding playfully that he had attempted to get at her but she used their children “as human shields”.
Youssef also couldn’t resist poking fun at conservative commentator Ben Shapiro’s controversial remarks on Morgan’s show earlier: “The only solution to the Israel-Gaza conflict is that Israel should annex Gaza and kill as many people so that what is happening does not happen again.” Youssef deadpanned, “More than 3,500 people have so far been killed. How many more people do we need to kill so that Ben Shapiro is happy?” Morgan was at a loss of words, struggling to save his face. He tried to correct Youssef at one point, playing a clip of Shapiro on his show. But Youssef remained unfazed, reiterating himself; the gauntlet had been thrown.
Youssef’s critique of the Israeli military was equally sharp. He humorously applauded Israel for its approach of warning civilians before bombing them, chiming, “That is so fu**** cute.” He questioned why people were being killed in the West Bank, an area with no Hamas presence. And wondered, “What is their excuse to kill people there?” When asked how he would react if he were Israel, Youssef’s response was equally satirical. “I would kill as many people as I can because the world is letting me do it.” His words, laced with irony, only underscored the cruelty and the absurdity of the war. “Hamas is the source for all evil. Let’s imagine a world without Hamas. Let’s name this world the West Bank. Thirty-seven Palestinian kids were killed — no music festival, no paragliding, no Hamas,” he said, countering Morgan’s argument that the Hamas militants gunned down Israeli civilians, including children, during a music festival, swooping in on paragliders from the sky, and arguing that Palestinian children continue to be killed in West Bank.