DocHouse Digest: Tickling Giants

Monday 27 March, 2017

TICKLING GIANTS is the story of one man’s quest to encourage democratic thinking and steer away from violence in Egypt through satire news programming. Inspired by Jon Stewart, Bassem Youssef left his career as a highly regarded heart surgeon to host the Egyptian version of The Daily Show. Through captured video footage of a revolting Egypt, we are taken on Bassem’s personal journey of dramatic highs and lows attached to creating a show that stirs a country’s conscience. Tickling Giants brings forth questions relating to the media, freedom of speech and the price one individual has to pay to change his country’s tone during the darkest of regimes. You can book tickets to our daily screenings: HERE.

Ahead of Tickling Giant’s release on Friday 31st March we’ve pulled together some useful resources about the film, Bassem Youssef, and the main themes explored.

Name: Bassem Youssef

Age: 43

Media Career: After leaping from the medical to the media world, Bassem launched his first satirical show The B+ Show in May 2011 on his YouTube channel. Shot in the glamorous setting of Bassem’s laundry room with one chair, table and camera he became an instant internet hit.

Bassem’s conversion from internet to TV came in September 2011 with Al Bername (literally meaning “The Program” in English). Under the Egyptian channel ONTV, the first season of Al Bername ran 104 episodes with Bassem using parody to voice current events.

Following the organic success of Al Bername’s first season, a second one was produced in November 2012 using a live audience (the first in Egyptian history) on CBC network. Bassem’s profile was lifted and a global audience was attracted to his style of “exploring flaws in society through comedy.” President Morsi was now in power and his regime was after critics who opposed him: Bassem became a topical target.

Bassem Youssef’s integrity, popularity and honesty continued to prevail in the making of Al Bername regardless of mounting pressures from Egypt’s changing authorities.

Themes:

- Politics: Egypt has long been a country in political turmoil. For almost 30 years under Mubarak’s rule, Egyptian lives were dictated to. Following a political uprising in Tunisia, Egypt followed suit to turn their leadership around. Throughout Tickling Giants we travel from Mubarka’s presidential resignation, Morsi’s election, suspension of Morsi’s constitution, General Sisi holding military rule over Egypt to General Sisi being officially elected as Egypt’s next president.

- Comedy/Sarcasm: We are repeatedly drawn to a poster in Bassem Youssef’s office that reads “Sarcasm: because beating the shit out of people is illegal.” Comedy can be used a coping mechanism in times of trouble and can bring those who once hated one another to laugh with each other. The use of black-comedy throughout Tickling Giants is what ultimately alters the mood of Egyptian protesting and political uprising. In the face of adversity, satire brings heightened anguish, complications, and struggles for Bassem.

- Media: “Journalists go to prison for being journalists”, a harsh lesson learnt from Tickling Giants. In Egypt – unlike westernised countries - the media is an outlet led by dictatorship and attempts to brainwash citizens. If networks, channels or presenters speak out against the sitting leadership it is construed as an act of conspiracy. Bassem seeks to bring about “a new Egypt” through his shows voice; he wishes to say what the masses of Egyptian voices cannot.

Book: Bassem's new book Revolution For Dummies will be released in the UK on 20th April. "Alternating between the dramatic unfolding of his TV show and his personal memoir of rising to the position of most contentious funny-man in Egypt, Youssef’s fast-paced riffs on dictatorship, revolution, and the unforeseeable destiny of democracy in modern times has the power to heal hearts and tickle ribs." (Harper Collins UK)

Tickling Giants is screening daily at the Bertha DocHouse from Friday March 31st. Watch the trailer and book your tickets here.

 

Some extra reading:

"An ebullient ode to freedom" - Variety 

"There’s a lot to laugh at, and to learn from" - New York Times

"The ‘Egyptian Jon Stewart’ Takes Us Inside the Arab Spring and Its Aftermath" - Vice 

"Humorous, tragic and awe-inspiring all at the same time" - The Upcoming

 

Words by: Danielle Wood