Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef brings his viral humour to Cop28

World having to come together each year to discuss how not to hurt planet is a joke itself, says acclaimed comedian

Bassem Youssef on stage at Cop28. Chris Whiteoak / The National
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Comedian Bassem Youssef had the audience at Cop28 in hysterics in no time but there was a serious message behind the humour.

The Egyptian surgeon-turned-comedian has been in the global spotlight recently thanks to his interviews with Piers Morgan on the Israel-Gaza war.

Expo City Dubai’s Al Forsan Park was packed with people keen to catch Youssef in action on Tuesday.

“How’s everyone doing at Cop so far? Are you cop-ing?” he asked an enthusiastic audience, who responded with laughter and applause.

The session, called “Sustainable” Personal Stories with Bassem Youssef, kicked off with a brief monologue and evolved into a Q&A with attendees.

Youssef briefly walked the audience through his career path over the years, and how he went from doctor to comedian to now viral sensation following his interview with Morgan.

“Let’s be honest, the only reason I’m here is because I’m trending,” he said to the audience.

“But also because I’ve long been an advocate of plant-based diets.”

Youssef’s humour was as sharp – and dark – as ever as he told one story after the other and responded to audience questions.

“Why stand-up comedy and how do you find humour during these dark times?” one person asked.

Youssef answered: “It’s simple. Because the fact that we still have to meet every year to decide not to hurt our planet is a joke itself.”

When asked if he would consider becoming a TV host again, the former host of satirical news programme El Bernameg (The Programme), said he loves touring and doing stand-up comedy and does not want to give that up.

For his second interview with Morgan, Youssef said he spent three sleepless weeks trying to perfect his argument, knowing that many people around the region counted on him in being their voice.

Perceptions could be changing

When a Palestinian student asked Youssef how to best persevere and navigate around increasing censorship, the comedian said the narratives are visibly changing, against all odds.

“The problem comes with the frustration that you want something to change right now, and we are dealing with a status quo that has been going on for years and years and years and years,” said Youssef.

“But in the last two or three months, there has been a huge shift in the directives, scripts and narratives in the West, in the way that they look the conflict.

“I think as frustrating as it is right now, we are on the precipice of something very important and we can actually find changes in the coming years.

“So keep doing what you're doing.”

Updated: December 06, 2023, 7:10 AM