The revolutionary comedy of Egypt's Bassem Youssef

(CBS News) On "The Daily Show" politicians are often the butt of jokes. But in some countries that kind of "seriously funny" can get you into real trouble, as our Mo Rocca has discovered:


When Bassem Youssef was hauled into an Egyptian court last week, charged with insulting President Mohammed Morsi and Islam, it made big news. That's because of the way these alleged insults were delivered.

In a country convulsed with uncertainty two years after a revolution, Youssef himself is a revolutionary -- a TV comic who dares to mock those in power.

"This is a new era, and this is a new Egypt," Youssef told Rocca. "And I'm actually happy and am quite proud to be part of this. So yes, it is changing and we're actually more empowered as people. The [powerful] people and authority are not as scary as they used to be. No matter how scary they want themselves to look like, the people are not scared anymore."

But the government may be scared of Bassem Youssef. His show, entitled "El Bernameg" -- in English simply "The Program" -- is wildly-popular, Friday night must-see TV in Cairo. Each week 30 million people throughout the Arab world watch him make fun of political and religious leaders not used to being made fun of.

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"Some of the adventures of actually having a very new emerging political life is that all the people don't have any idea what they're doing," Youssef said. "And we're there actually to make fun of it."

Egyptians have never seen anything like it. If it looks familiar to American audiences, that's because it is unabashedly modeled on Comedy Central's "Daily Show With Jon Stewart."

"In America we have carved out a public space for mockery, satire, conversation that is secure and stable," Stewart said. "He is part of that process that is carving out that space, and that's a very different position to be in. He's creating the space to allow not just himself but other people to express themselves.

"What Bassem's doing is remarkable. He is expressing the courage and the tenacity and the ability that we would all, in our best versions of ourselves, do. But in reality? Not sure. So, he is truly an example."

To watch Bassem perform -- telling jokes, doing impressions, singing and dancing -- you wouldn't guess that before 2011 he hadn't performed at all.

In fact, get this, he was a heart surgeon!

"I think the most upsetting thing about Bassem is the idea that he does this like it's nothing," laughed Stewart, "but could also just kind of walk next door and go, 'Oh, yeah, let me just open up your chest for a real second, just start that for ya'. Dun dun. Okay, there you go.' I mean, that's incredible."

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