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UAE: Bassem Youssef says viral Gaza interview was his ‘way of changing the narrative’ – News

Photos: M Sajjad/KT

Published: Friday, November 10, 2023, 11:13 p.m.

Last update: Friday, November 10, 2023, 11:20 p.m.

When British journalist Piers Morgan first approached him about Gaza, his manager warned Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef that it would be career suicide. “Piers Morgan himself approached me and asked me three times if he was sure he wanted to talk,” he said at the Sharjah International Book Fair (SIBF) on Friday night. “My manager said it would be professional suicide. But he knew he had to say something. “Someone had to change the narrative.”

Speaking to a packed house, Youssef addressed several topics, including her viral interview with Piers Morgan, her parenting philosophy, and how she spent several months unable to find a job after moving to Los Angeles. His session was hosted by renowned Arab businessman and interviewer Anas Bukhash.

Despite all the warnings, Youssef, often called ‘Egypt’s Jon Stewart’, decided to go ahead with the interview in which he dropped truth bombs wrapped in his trademark comedy. The video went viral and racked up over 20 million views, becoming the most viewed episode of the Piers Morgan Uncensored show. This led Morgan to invite Youssef to a second round of conversation, this time in person.

Constant preparation

Youssef said he agreed to the second interview with a clear goal in mind. “I didn’t want to argue,” he said. “I wanted him to listen to me. Piers Morgan has this tendency to push his interviewees’ buttons and use words to irritate them into reacting. He knew it. So I put my ego aside when I went.”

Youssef also knew that this interview was his only chance to provide important information, so he spared no effort to prepare. “I created three teams of researchers from around the world,” he said. “Some of them were from Gaza itself and they gave me information on the ground. In the days leading up to the interview, I divided my day into two parts. During one part I learned and during the other I practiced my talk.”

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Youssef’s second interview with Morgan aired earlier this month and has racked up more than 10 million views on YouTube. She has been described as a master class in the history of Palestine.

Being a father and becoming an author

Youssef also talked about how he learns every day from his children. “I always encourage you to listen to your heart and be true to yourself,” he said. “We have different stories and different perspectives. I share my experiences with them and I don’t force them to do anything. I feel like this is how you can break the chain of negative parenting.”

She also said that her book Nadia’s Magical Reality was inspired by her own experience and what her daughter Nadia had faced when she started school in the United States. “The book is about accepting others as they are,” she said.

Youssef said that after moving to Los Angeles five years ago, he spent several months without work. “I didn’t want to use certain types of language,” he said. “And that was difficult. I haven’t received offers in months. I didn’t know if I could do it but I went step by step, without compromising anything. Things started to fall into place after a while. It was a learning experience for me to take my time and not rush into anything. Be patient and good things will come to you.”

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