Andeel - Tickling Giants

During the Arab Spring, a heart surgeon – who will be called the ‘Egyptian Jon Stewart’ not much later – starts a satirical show: ‘The Show’. The Muslim Brotherhood, the army, the new president: his jokes spare no one. It is a totally new phenomenon in a country where insulting politicians was strictly forbidden. From day one, Andeel is a big fan of the show, and soon he is hired as a permanent writer and cartoonist of the program.

When the Egyptians take to the streets en masse in 2011, the unthinkable happens: their dictator, Hosni Mubarak, resigns. From then on, anyone would be free and be able to speak freely.

It turns out very differently: weeks later the media is still "total shit". The media are still telling lies and manipulating the people. For Bassem Youssef – a heart surgeon from Cairo – this is a reason to realise his dream. He quits his job to become a full-time comedian, and starts the satirical show Al Bernameg (‘The Show’).  An unprecedented phenomenon in Egypt: until then it was strictly forbidden to make jokes about politicians.

The programme quickly becomes the most famous show in the Middle East, with thirty million viewers per episode. Andeel is one of them. From the first day ‘The Show’ is aired, he watches it with much pleasure and interest. “Bassem says things that we tell each other but would never dare to say in public. He says what people actually think.”

‘The Show’ is so successful that a national tv station takes it under its wing. Bassem and his friends get their own studio, a live audience and hire a dream team of passionate people. Andeel is one of them. He is promoted from great fan to permanent writer and cartoonist of the show. He translates the political satire and sarcasm into stinging cartoons, which can also be seen in the film Tickling Giants.

Meanwhile, the revolution has not been what everyone had hoped for, and freedom of expression and making jokes remains difficult. Al Bernameg is immensely popular but also controversial. The team, of which Andeel is a part, feels increasingly threatened, especially when more and more journalists and activists end up behind bars, the programme is not allowed to air for weeks and the protest in front of their studio building becomes stronger as the days go on.

But the young, positive team of Al Bernameg is resilient and continues to fight the threat from above with humour and comedy.

Eventually, the programme Al Bernameg did stop in 2014. The program was shut down for weeks surrounding the elections, and the team felt that it was no longer safe to make the satire. Presenter Bassem Youssef fled Egypt. The young cartoonist Andeel stayed in Egypt and continued his independent journalism and carried on creating cartoons for Mada Masr, a media organisation of engaged journalists in Cairo.