US comedian Jon Stewart has taken the guest’s seat on Egypt’s top satirical TV show, modelled after his own programme “The Daily Show”.
Stewart was brought to the set on Friday wearing a black hood and introduced by host Bassem Youssef as a captured foreign spy.
Sporting a scruffy beard, Stewart spoke briefly in Arabic as the studio audience gave him a raucous welcome.
“Please sit down, I am a simple man who does not like to be fussed over,” he said in Arabic to laughter.
Youssef, a trained heart surgeon and one of Egypt’s most popular TV presenters, has been questioned by prosecutors on accusations of blasphemy and insulting the president.
The US comedian defended his counterpart and friend in one of his monologues after Youssef, host of the show “Al-Bernameg”, was interrogated earlier this year, and Youssef has appeared as a guest on Stewart’s New York-based show.
Stewart, who is on a summer-long break from anchoring the Comedy Central fake newscast, is embarking on making his first movie.
He expressed admiration for Youssef in Friday’s episode, which was recorded earlier this week during a visit to Cairo.
Relevance of satire
“Satire is a settled law. If your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke, then you have no regime,” Stewart said, adding that Youssef “is showing that satire can be relevant”.
True to form, Youssef began the weekly show with a series of jokes about President Mohammed Morsi’s appearance and address at a rally last weekend.
The president announced at the rally a complete break of diplomatic relations with the government of Syrian President Bashar Assad.
Stewart said he was overwhelmed with the generosity of Egyptians but took a jab at Cairo’s horrendous traffic. “I flew in three days ago and I have just arrived to do the show,” he joked.
Youssef – often described as Egypt’s Jon Stewart – was interrogated in April for allegedly insulting Islam and the country’s leader. His questioning drew criticism from Washington and rights advocates.
He catapulted to fame when his video blogs mocking politics received hundreds of thousands of hits shortly after the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime leader Hosni Mubarak.