Update: In June 2014, Bassem Youssef canceled his show, "El-Bernameg," citing mounting pressure from the government and fear for his family's safety.
What does Jon Stewart think of the Egyptian comic who copied the concept behind "The Daily Show" to create a carbon-copy in Cairo that attracts an estimated 30 million viewers every week?
"He is doing a live show in a theater in downtown. I mean, he is a hundred yards from Tahrir Square, doing a show about the effects of government on the Egyptian people," says Stewart. "Nothing that he does is ordinary, even if it is something that is typical of any show that you would see here."
Although Stewart says Youssef's studio set is "much nicer," the way they attack an issue through comedy is very similar.
"We deconstruct public life to find the space in between what is said on camera and what they're saying behind the camera," says Stewart. "So you're sort of deconstructing the process of governance through whatever goofy means you're coming up with."
But unlike Stewart and other political satirists in the U.S., Youssef has come under pressure from authorities, who don't appreciate being the butt of his jokes. Youssef has been charged with insulting the president, interrogated by authorities, and labeled a traitor and an infidel. His show, "El-Bernameg" was knocked off the air, and the transmission of his latest episode was mysteriously jammed.
As Youssef struggles to produce comedy while under pressure from authorities, Stewart has not only been a source of inspiration, he has also made a public show of support for his colleague by appearing on Youssef's show. Youssef also appeared twice as a guest on "The Daily Show," and the two comedians have struck up a friendship.
"I will tell you the best advice Jon Stewart ever gave me," Youssef says. "I told him, like, I don't know what to do...I don't know what to make fun of. It's very tense, and there's just, like, a thin line everywhere. And he told me, 'You know what? Make fun of whatever you feel. If you feel that you're afraid, make fun of that. If you feel that you cannot talk about certain subjects, make fun of that. If you don't have anything to say, make fun of that.'"
"I think Bassem's show is just a reflection of how he's feeling," says Stewart. "That's all those shows are, you know?"
"I think he felt pressure at one time to be a leader, rather than just a satirist because of just how influential the program had become down there. I think that was an incredible weight for him to bear."
"He doesn't need to be the champion of the people," Stewart says. "He just needs to continue to show that you can create a joyful, funny, interesting, smart, satirical show in a country that's suffering."