Woman Around Town’s Editor Charlene Giannetti and writers for the website talk with the women and men making news in New York, Washington, D.C., and other cities around the world. Thanks to Ian Herman for his wonderful piano introduction.

Jon Stewart

Bassem Youssef – The Jon Stewart of Egypt


Every mother’s dream is that her son will become a doctor.  Her worst nightmare is that he will become a comedian. Egyptian-born Bassem Youssef has been both. In 2011, Bassem left his job as a cardiac surgeon and embarked on a comedy career. Tickling Giants is his story.  It’s also the story of Egypt’s tentative steps towards Democracy during the period known as the “Arab Spring.”

Called the “Egyptian Jon Stewart,” Bassem was initially moved to action after helping wounded protestors in Tahir Square during Mubarik’s ouster in 2011. His first attempts at humor were on YouTube.  These were an instant hit and Bassem was quickly picked up on

Egyptian network TV. His show, called, The Show [Al-Bernameg In Arabic], was a satirical look at politics, religion, and the government. And nothing was off limits – Islam and its clerics, sex, the president. Sight gags, animation, and video goofs added to the mix.


Bassem interviewing people at  Mohamed Mahmoud Street in November 2011.

It was a winning combination for Bassem. His Egyptian audiences loved it, and even his mentor, Stewart, was moved to let him visit his New York set. There, Bassem’s story and his passion caught the eye of The Daily Show’s long-time producer, Sara Taksler, who committed to making a feature length documentary about him. A year later, Taksler found herself in Cairo. But shooting on location in Eqypt was fraught with difficulties. Because of budget constraints, Taksler had to become a one-man band, shooting much of the action herself, in the midst of dangerous times and risky places; sometimes from a moving car and other times from the protection of the production offices. As Taksler said, “This is a group of people who do the same sorts of things I do as a Senior Producer at The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, but with much higher stakes.”

Yet she also managed to capture Bassem and his staff’s humor, dedication, and sense of fun throughout it all.  And she said, she found their two offices remarkably similar – the main difference being that one had lots of Ahmed’s, the other lots of Adam’s.

The show itself spanned four seasons and three rulers – Mubarik, Morsi, and Sisi, whom Bassem called, “Mubarek 2.0,” and who won his “free election” with 96.9 percent of the vote. The other 3.1 percent went to “Hummus” or so the show said. But it often put him at odds with the government. Under Morsi’s rule, he was cited for “Contempt of Islam” and “Insulting the President,” and questioned for six hours. Ultimately, the court dismissed the case amidst cheers from the public. As one onlooker said, “He’s a doctor who heals us from the political state we’re facing.”


Bassem presents Jon Stewart with a gift from Egypt.

In its hay-day, the show commanded 30 million viewers, nearly 40 percent of the population. By comparison, Stewart’s show reached two million. But Egypt is not the United States, and freedom of expression is not guaranteed.

When Sisi came to power in 2014, the tides began to turn. Protestors appeared outside the studio, there were thinly and not-so-thinly veiled threats to Bassem, his crew, and his family. Two networks, and one blackout/jammed signal later, Bassem was off the air and being sued for breach of contract for 100,000,000 pounds. It was an amount he could not pay, so he fled the country.

Today, Bassem lives in California with his wife and daughter, but he is keeping his political humor alive. His show, Democracy Handbook, a series of 10 digital episodes, airs on Fusion.  And he recently published a book called, Revolution for Dummies: Laughing through the Arab Spring, which is taking him around the States on the lecture circuit.

It’s a long way from Cairo, and it often makes Bassem wonder whether his little girl will ever see Egypt. But ultimately, he remains undeterred as he reflects back on his show there. “It was a short glimpse in time, where people can look back and say, it’s possible.”

Top photo: Bassem visits The Daily Show in June 2012.

Photos courtesy of Sarcasm’s Productions

The Press Takes a Hard Look at Itself this Saturday


How responsible has the media been for the success of Donald Trump’s candidacy? Is the “rigged media” now being unfair to him as the candidate suggests? Was the press unfairly critical of Hillary Clinton at the start of the race only to be supportive of her candidacy now?

These questions, and many others, will be addressed this Saturday, October 29, as members of the press provide an honest assessment of how well the media has covered the election. Members of the press from Democracy Now!, Fox News, Huffington Post, The Hill and the National Review will participate in a panel discussion on The Press and the 2016 Presidential Election at the New York Press Club Foundation’s 24th Annual Conference on Journalism.  The conference takes place at NYU’s Kimmel Center, beginning at 8:30 a.m.

In addition to the panel about the press and the election, several breakout sessions throughout the morning will cover many topics that are important to journalists and those interested in how media work to bring us the news.

Millennials and the Media will look at how millennials get their news. Jon Stewart was once the main source of news for the next generation. With Stewart’s retirement, news outlets like mic.com, Vice, even Snapchat for News have arisen to fill the void.  How serious and accurate are these media outlets? Is this the end of “mainstream media”?  Come to the panel and find out.

vargasKeynote speaker Elizabeth Vargas

A recent article in the Boston Globe suggests that Americans are not getting accurate information about what is happening in Syria.  The Globe blames media outlets for drastically reducing the number of foreign correspondents. However, some incredibly brave journalists do put their lives at risk to find the truth and enlighten the world about what goes on in war torn countries like Syria and Afghanistan. Reporters who cover conflict areas on the ground will be at the conference on Saturday to participate in the War and Conflict Reporting panel. Come find out how these astonishing reporters cut through the fog of war, keep safe, and uncover the facts in this not to be missed panel discussion.


If food is your thing, a more light-hearted panel on Food Journalism will be of interest. New York Magazine food writer, Adam Platt, will moderate a panel of food experts and writers, including the former New York Times’ food critic, Mimi Sheraton.

Other panels will include Sports Reporting, Digital Media-Keeping it Legal, and The Podcast Boom, all staffed by experts in their fields of journalism.

Lunch will be served during the Keynote address by Elizabeth Vargas of ABC’s 20/20, who will participate in a Q and A with Press Club President, Steve Scott. Vargas, who has chronicled her career and struggle with alcoholism in a recent book, will answer questions about the election, her career and how she is dealing with her addiction.

For more information about the New York Press Club Foundation’s Conference on Journalism and to buy tickets, visit the website.