Jon Stewart Of America Meets The Jon Stewart Of Egypt, And Hilarity Ensues

Last summer, Jon Stewart stopped by the Egyptian TV show “Al Bernameg,” hosted by the brave and hilarious Bassem Youssef (dubbed by some “Egypt’s Jon Stewart”). Amidst the silliness, they end up having a pretty poignant discussion about the power of humor and satire in difficult situations from New York to Cairo and everywhere in between. Stick around 'til the end to see Stewart do something very American.

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Bassem Youssef: [foreign language]



Bassem Youssef: Ladies and gentlemen, Jon Stewart.


Jon Stewart: [foreign language]

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: [foreign language]

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language]

Jon Stewart: [foreign language]

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language]

Jon Stewart: That's all I memorized.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: That's all I have.

Bassem Youssef: Our audience loves spies.

Jon Stewart: Do they love spies? Well, I'm apparently a spy.

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: Actually, I'm honored to be on your program.

Bassem Youssef: It's nothing.

Jon Stewart: It's beautiful. The studio audience is beautiful. I love them. It's a beautiful city. And may I say something? May I make an announcement? This is an important announcement. I have been honored. I don't even know what to say. Your President has bestowed upon me an appointment. I am now the mayor of Luxor.

Bassem Youssef: Oh.

Jon Stewart: I am now the mayor of Luxor. Thank you. [foreign language]

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: [foreign language]

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: That's all I know. There's nothing else I can do.

Bassem Youssef: All you know is [foreign language].

Jon Stewart: That's all. All I know is what they told me.

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: And I grew this. Do you like it?

Bassem Youssef: Yeah. I love it.

Jon Stewart: I am now Brotherhood.

Bassem Youssef: I need to introduce you.

Jon Stewart: Please.

Bassem Youssef: In a way that is, you know, it's important that people know more about you.

Jon Stewart: Yes, please.

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language]

[audience laughter]

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language] [bleep] I just said you're awesome.


Jon Stewart: [foreign language]

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language] I just said that you're an inspiration to me as a comedian.

Jon Stewart: My heart.

Bassem Youssef: So, what happened? I mean, you left your program?

Jon Stewart: I don't know what it is.

Bassem Youssef: So now some British guy, John Oliver is actually doing your show? You're jobless now. You have absolutely nothing to do.

Jon Stewart: I'm just wandering. As you know, my people like to wander the desert. So that's what I'm doing now. I'm wandering the desert. It's been two weeks. I've got 38 years and 50 weeks left. That's what I'm going to do.

Bassem Youssef: What are you doing? I mean, why did you leave the show?

Jon Stewart: I have left the program to pursue a film that I wanted to do with a journalist who is also a friend of yours. An Iranian journalist named Maziar Bahari, who is a wonderful man. You know Maziar? Maziar, in 2009, was reporting on the Mousavi-Ahmadinejad election. I don't recall who won.

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: And he was imprisoned, and in prison he wrote a beautiful book about it. And he has honored me and trusted me with telling the story through a script and a movie, and I'm very pleased to be able to do it.

Bassem Youssef: So people said that he actually got in trouble because he spoke to one of your correspondents.

Jon Stewart: Yes. We sent, you know, Jason Jones.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: From our show, he's a correspondent. We sent him to Iran during the time of the election, not realizing it was during the time of the election because we're American. We don't know what's going on in the world. So we thought, "We'll just send him there. It's probably lovely this time of year." But apparently it was a revolution. And so he went, and we interviewed Maziar in a café. And Maziar was very kind to talk to us. And the point of the piece, of going there, was to show how much we are just people, [what] we just have in common with each other. You know, you can get lost in the geopolitical ideas of enemies, and allies, and frenemies, and [foreign language], and all that. And after the interview, Maziar was arrested. And they showed him the interview from our show in prison as evidence that he was a spy.

Bassem Youssef: It rings a bell. Having you here, getting you as a spy.

Jon Stewart: Wait a minute. So, wait.

Bassem Youssef: Yeah?

Jon Stewart: If one of us gets arrested, who's going to make the movie?

Bassem Youssef: [indecipherable], actually.

Jon Stewart: Perfect.

Bassem Youssef: So, I just want to share, before I go back to what you're doing in Jordan. I want to share a very dark part of your history.

Jon Stewart: My history.

Bassem Youssef: This is incriminating.

Jon Stewart: There are many dark parts of my history.

Bassem Youssef: This is incriminating evidence. Can we show it please? Yes? Can we show it?

Jon Stewart: Oh. That's me, just one year ago.

Bassem Youssef: Yes. I really wonder how much hair you have. Not in your . . .

Jon Stewart: I could . . .

Bassem Youssef: You look like a singer [here] who is very, very famous for that. He's our Justin Bieber, but he's like 50 years older. It doesn't matter, it's OK. It was lots of hair.

Jon Stewart: [laughs] When I go bald, I'm just going to comb it over from my back.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: [I'll] pull it over like a hair umbrella. By the way, I know this is an ancient civilization.

Bassem Youssef: It is.

Jon Stewart: And a beautiful civilization.

Bassem Youssef: We're very old.

Jon Stewart: It's such storied history. Have you thought about traffic lights?

[applause and audience laughter]

Jon Stewart: And I say this as a great people that must carry on the tradition of innovation.

Bassem Youssef: Have you seen traffic lights?

Jon Stewart: I have not seen one. The law appears to be, "Can I get over the car in front of me?" Now, I don't know what it was like before. I'll put it to you this way. I flew into Egypt. I came here three days ago.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: And then I got into a car at the airport, and just got here.

Bassem Youssef: In three days.

Jon Stewart: And by the way, along the way bought many garments on the side of the road.

Bassem Youssef: But what you don't know about our traffic that it's our first line of defense.

Jon Stewart: Your traffic is.

Bassem Youssef: We can never be occupied, because the streets are already occupied.

Jon Stewart: This is why you are a brilliant man.

Bassem Youssef: The marines will dare not actually set foot in the streets of Cairo.

Jon Stewart: No, absolutely not.

Bassem Youssef: Yes. So, you've been pursuing this . . .

Jon Stewart: How come you get water and I don't get water?

Bassem Youssef: Actually, it's empty. [laughs] It's empty.

Jon Stewart: I will say this: the hospitality that I've received, and I mean this honestly, opens my heart. It's wonderful. The people have been wonderful to me. And it's to the point where, as I've travelled throughout the Middle East, I'm beginning to wonder if you're being sarcastic.

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: "Can I get you something? Can I get you something else? Would you like another?" And I'm just like, "You want a piece of this? Is that what you want?"

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: "Do you want to fight, is that what this is?" It's the friendliest thing in the world. I'm literally filled from here to here with apricots.

Bassem Youssef: Wow.

Jon Stewart: You could open up my head and just pull dates out now.

Bassem Youssef: And the baba ganoush and the hummus.

Jon Stewart: I don't like the hubble bubble.

Bassem Youssef: The what?

Jon Stewart: They sit, with the bubbling, and it's like an aquarium with smoke?

Bassem Youssef: Oh, yeah.

Jon Stewart: The hubbley [SP] bubble, whatever.

Bassem Youssef: Yes. This is how we raise fish.

Jon Stewart: [laughs] To be smokers.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: I love it.

Bassem Youssef: So, you are of course, one of the most, I mean, I've just known you, and I've read that you're some sort of a satirist in the United States?

Jon Stewart: Yes, I am a comedian of sorts.

Bassem Youssef: Yes. And the thing is, does satire get you into trouble? I mean, [indecipherable] the love you get from the people.

Jon Stewart: I'll tell you this, it doesn't get me into the kind of trouble it gets you into.

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: I get in trouble, but nowhere near what happens to you. Here's the thing.

Bassem Youssef: You are in the Middle East. It's close. You're getting close.

Jon Stewart: Yes. I do Bassem's job in a country that has carved out already that it is settled law. Satire is settled law. Governments have realized if your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke, then you don't have a regime. Because you have to be able to handle anything. A joke is a joke. You may say, "That is an insult." And there's an expression, I don't know if you have it: adding insult to injury. Yes, maybe it is an insult, but it is not an injury. A joke has never ridden a motorcycle into a crowd with a baton. A joke has never shot tear gas to a group of people in a park. It's just talk. That is it. So what Bassem is doing is what's so inspiring to me. And I know you don't like it when I talk like this.

Bassem Youssef: Please.

Jon Stewart: He is showing that satire can still be relevant. That it can carve out space in a country for people to express themselves. Because that's all democracy is, the ability to express yourself and be heard. You won't always win, but you can't confuse tyranny with losing elections. It's just the opportunity to be heard, and for the majority to respect the minority, whatever they may say. However they may do it. So, this is what you do.

Bassem Youssef: You had your battles. I mean, with Fox News. Our beloved Fox News. I was watching it. I was living in the city. I was watching it.

Jon Stewart: Yeah.

Bassem Youssef: I was wondering in which pit of Hell do they do their editorials?

Jon Stewart: [laughs]

Bassem Youssef: I mean, of course, it's like a gold mine for you.

Jon Stewart: Yeah.

Bassem Youssef: But I mean, the amount of hate, and stereotyping, and profiling.

Jon Stewart: But I always see it as fear. I always see it for what it is. It's a way of . . . and you don't know ever if it's honest fear, or if it's manipulation, but it's fear. Everything is a conspiracy. Everything is monsters around every corner.

Bassem Youssef: There are foreign fingers want to get into . . .

Jon Stewart: Yeah.

Bassem Youssef: We're very fond of fingers.

Jon Stewart: There's a lot of [foreign language] around the corner.

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language], yes. Fingers have a lot to do with this.

Jon Stewart: Yes.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: They really do have a lot to do with it.

Bassem Youssef: You have actually stood defending the rights of so many minorities, including Muslims and Arab minorities. You have spoken strongly for the 9/11 mosque. The minaret in Switzerland. Switzerland, dude.

Jon Stewart: I've gone after Switzerland many times. The mosque, the chocolates, the whole thing. I don't like it.

Bassem Youssef: [laughs] And actually, you've been accused as a Muslim and Bin Ladin sympathizer sometimes.

Jon Stewart: Sure. Well, no. Not that.

Bassem Youssef: [laughs] OK.

Jon Stewart: Although that's what's interesting. You know, we all have misconceptions about each other. I'll tell you just a quick story about that. I'm from America. I live in New York City. 9/11 is very close to my heart. It was a terrible tragedy. And I'm over here, and I'm in Jordan. And I meet a man. And we're in a refugee camp. And everyone is poor, and this man brings me dates, and he is incredibly hospitable, and he is warm, and he is open. And he would like me to visit and see his family.

And I'm just touched by this man, and I say, "What is your name?" and he says, "Osama." And I thought, "I need to open up." You know? Because you learn that names are names, and stereotypes are stereotypes, but ignorance goes both ways. So that was a difficult. It's the kind of thing you need to open your heart to. It's very hard. And I love my country. And I, especially overseas, defend it to the end, you know?

Bassem Youssef: In the last week before you left, you were hosting Bill O'Reilly. Our beloved Bill O'Reilly.

Jon Stewart: Yes.

Bassem Youssef: And he told you, and I quote, "You are leaving, so since you care so much about Muslims and Arabs, why don't you leave your place to a Muslim and an Arab," right?

Jon Stewart: Yeah.

Bassem Youssef: Why didn't you think of me?

Jon Stewart: [laughs] But here's the thing I want to point out. It's not about defending Muslims, or defending Jews, or defending Christians, or defending . . . what are the other ones? I don't like [bleep]. So I try to speak out against [bleep]. And isn't that all goverment is? We all get together and decide as a majority who the [bleep] are. That's all it is. Government is always a lottery. You put your money down. It's a bet. I'm going to put down some money on this guy, in the hopes that he'll turn out to be something good. And a lot of times, he doesn't, as it appears to be in this case.

Bassem Youssef: [laughs] Do you know a lot of people here are actually with the President, and a lot of people want to impeach the President.

Jon Stewart: You want to impeach him?

Bassem Youssef: You have [indecipherable] of impeachment. Yes.

Jon Stewart: This is what's so nice about your democracy. It took us a hundred years of democracy before we impeached our first President. For you guys to do it in one year is very impressive to me.

Bassem Youssef: It's the food.

Jon Stewart: It's the food.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: Can I tell you, I have not had a bad meal since I've been here.

Bassem Youssef: Really.

Jon Stewart: It's unbelievable.

Bassem Youssef: Can I share with you a little bit?

Jon Stewart: I would love it. That is a plate of puddle.

Bassem Youssef: This is our magic green soup, molokheya [SP].

Jon Stewart: Molokheya, yes.

Bassem Youssef: With molokheya, [this is] what you need, OK.

Jon Stewart: This is yarmulke, yes?

Bassem Youssef: No.

Jon Stewart: I'm sorry.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: All right.

Bassem Youssef: So, the way you do it. [indistinguishable] I catch here, like a little spoon.

Jon Stewart: Like a chip. Yeah. All right.

Bassem Youssef: And also, we have [foreign language].

[audience laughter]

Jon Stewart: Oh. Wait.

Bassem Youssef: You don't want to eat that.

Jon Stewart: Wait.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: I don't eat anything that is a laugh food. When you say the name of the food and they go [imitates crowd roar]. What is that?

Bassem Youssef: Testicles. Yes.

[audience laughter]

Jon Stewart: Wait. How are they prepared?

Bassem Youssef: [laughs]

Jon Stewart: What is this?

Bassem Youssef: This is . . .

Jon Stewart: Does this go along with this, if you know what I'm saying? This looks like the partner, if you will, to this.

Bassem Youssef: No.

Jon Stewart: Is this true?

Bassem Youssef: No.

Jon Stewart: I don't want any part of it.

Bassem Youssef: This is what we call mombar [SP]. And it will bombard, actually, your stomach.

Jon Stewart: Mombar.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: I'll stay away from that.

Bassem Youssef: We have kushari, a.k.a. [foreign language].

[audience laughter]

Bassem Youssef: This is the renaissance project.

Jon Stewart: Yeah.

Bassem Youssef: I advise you not to eat any of this. Seriously, I want to share with you, before you go, a list of survival tips in Egypt.

Jon Stewart: In Cairo?

Bassem Youssef: In Cairo.

Jon Stewart: I would love to hear about them.

Bassem Youssef: First of all, crossing the streets here is a kind of sport. [indecipherable]

Jon Stewart: [laughs]

Bassem Youssef: And in some areas it's kind of an extreme sport, OK.

Jon Stewart: Really?

Bassem Youssef: And if you pass by the [foreign language] and people start throwing rocks, it is not an act of aggression. It's just become our pastime.

Jon Stewart: I see. You learn to be pitchers.

Bassem Youssef: You can play catch or embrace it, you know.

Jon Stewart: Yeah.

Bassem Youssef: And last, if you are going to drive in Cairo traffic, don't.

Jon Stewart: [laughs] I won't.

Bassem Youssef: Yes.

Jon Stewart: I won't do it.

Bassem Youssef: Jon, I wish all the best for you. You have absolutely no job, and I know that you're kind of roaming everywhere now. I'm very sorry for you.

Jon Stewart: That's actually interesting you bring that up, because I heard there might be an opening for the type of humor that I do in this very studio.

Bassem Youssef: Seriously?


Jon Stewart: Gentlemen, come out here, please. I have a job for you. [whistles] Come.

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language]

[audience laughter]

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language]

Jon Stewart: These are my bags.

Bassem Youssef: Why?

Jon Stewart: I'm staying.

Bassem Youssef: [foreign language]

Jon Stewart: You, my friend, are going.

Bassem Youssef: What?


Jon Stewart: Thank you, brother. My name is Jon Stewart. I am the new host of "El Bernameg." Good night.



There may be small errors in this transcript.

This video was uploaded to YouTube by Bassem Youssef’s program, "البرنامج" ("Al Bernameg"), which literally means “the program.” Jon Stewart’s appearance on the show wasn’t the first time the two of them met. If you’re hungry for more Stewart-Youssef fun (which of course you are), check out Bassem’s "Daily Show" interview from June 2012, and watch the full version of this interview on YouTube (the first seven minutes are pretty silly). "Al Bernameg" was dropped by its network in late 2013 because Youssef “upset Egyptian sensibilities by attacking ‘symbols of the state.’” Thankfully, he found a new network, and the show started back up again in February 2014.

Side note: As someone who has lived in and loves Cairo, I second Stewart’s call for more traffic lights!

May 06, 2014

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