The ‘Jon Stewart of the Arab World’ and one of TIME Magazine’s ‘Most Influential People in the World’ in 2013 Recounts His Journey From Cardiothoracic Surgeon to Political Satirist


NASHVILLE, TENN. – Oct. 2, 2017 – In The Joke Is Mightier than the Sword, Bassem Youssef shares his personal story and his thoughts on the political climate that led to the Arab Spring, its parallels to the current state of American politics and how propaganda lays the foundation for dictatorial regimes. And he does it by poking fun.

Youssef’s live performance of The Joke Is Mightier Than The Sword will take place Saturday, Nov. 18 at 8 pm at OZ Arts Nashville. Tickets go on sale Oct. 18 at www.ozartsnashville.org and are $45 per person for the early bird rate. Ticket prices go up to the full $55 per person starting on Nov. 11.

Dubbed the “Jon Stewart of the Arab World,” Youssef was the creator and host of the wildly popular TV show “Al-Bernameg,” the first political satire show in the Middle East and, with 30 million viewers every week, the most watched program in the region from 2011 through 2014.

Throughout its three seasons “Al-Bernameg” remained controversial for its hilarious and bold criticism of the ruling powers. Accused of being “anti-Islam” and insulting the president of Egypt, Youssef was arrested and interrogated before being released on bail. During its final season, the show achieved unprecedented ratings before Youssef announced its termination due to overwhelming political pressures on the show and the airing channel.

“Bravery comes in many forms, but is often accompanied by sacrifice. Seven years ago Bassem Youssef risked (and in some respects lost) his job security, his freedom, and his personal safety – and that of his family, to actively stand against censorship and religious coercion in Egypt,” said OZ Arts Artistic Director Lauren Snelling. “As an audience for Bassem Youssef’s story in Nashville, my hope is that we can expand our understanding of Arab culture at home and abroad, and identify creative ways of challenging power here in the US wherever free speech is criticized.”

In addition to the performance of The Joke Is Mightier Than The Sword, OZ Arts will present a special screening of Sara Tacksler’s documentary Ticking Giants in partnership with, and in the Main Gallery of, 21c Museum Hotel Nashville, 221 2nd Avenue North, Nashville, 37201 at 8 PM on Nov. 17. The film follows Youssef and the team of “AlBernameg” as they endure physical threats, protests and legal action—all because of jokes. Admission to the screening is free with advance RSVP. Further details and registration at ozartsnashville.org/outreach.

A practicing cardiothoracic surgeon until the Arab Spring in 2011, Youssef’s satirical activism catapulted him to international stardom in a matter of months. In addition to being one of TIME Magazine’s “100 Most Influential People in the World in 2013, the same year he received the International Press Freedom Award from the Committee to Protect Journalists and appeared on Foreign Policy’s list of “100 Leading Global Thinkers.” Youssef has appeared on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, The Late Show with Stephen Colbert, Full Frontal with Samantha Bee, NPR’s Fresh Air, On Point and Weekend Edition, and he hosted the 43rd International Emmy Awards. Youssef created The Democracy Handbook, a 10-part video series for Fusion.net. His current projects include educational discussions around his documentary film Tickling Giants, and his book, for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring, which was released alongside a live show at New York’s Town Hall in March 2017. Nashville independent bookseller, Parnassus Books, will be present at OZ Arts on November 18 to sell copies of Revolution for Dummies: Laughing Through the Arab Spring for signing by Youssef pre and post-show.


About OZ Arts Nashville
Since opening in 2014, OZ Arts Nashville, a 501(c)(3) contemporary arts center, has changed the cultural landscape of the city. Housed in the former C.A.O. cigar warehouse owned by Nashville’s Ozgener family, OZ Arts, under the artistic leadership of Lauren Snelling, brings world-class performances and art installations to the city, and gives ambitious local artists opportunities to work on a grand scale. The flexible 10,000 square-foot, column-free venue, nestled amidst five acres of artfully landscaped grounds, is continually reconfigured to serve artists’ imaginations, and to challenge and inspire a diverse range of curious audiences. TNT is a curated series of newly created artworks by Tennessee-based artists. OZ Arts is supported in part by the Metro Nashville Arts Commission. The TNT series is supported in part by the Tennessee Arts Commission and the Danner Foundation.


For more information, please visit http://www.ozartsnashville.org/.



Media Contact
Amy A. Atkinson at Amy Atkinson Communications, call/text at 615-305-8118, or email amy@amyacommunications.com. Photos are available upon request.