EXCLUSIVE: Bassem Youssef, the Egyptian comic, satirist, one-time cardiac surgeon and official friend of Jon Stewart, has signed with UTA and Anonymous Content. The move marks a big step up for Youssef, who rose to prominence in the days after the 2011 revolution in Egypt and first heady moments of the Arab spring. Initially appearing in a series of short webisodes financed by Egyptian billionaire Naguib Sawiris’ ONTV, Youssef’s brand of black humor and caustic wit soon became a sensation in his native Egypt and across the Arab world. Those five-minute webisodes grew into Al-Bernameg, the first political satire and, for a time, the most watched TV show in the Middle East.
Often dubbed the ‘Jon Stewart of the Arab World’, Youssef appeared twice as a senior Middle East correspondent on the The Daily Show with the peerless Stewart, commenting on the current political situation in the region. He also recently hosted the 2015 International Emmy Awards Gala in New York City. Youssef was named to Time magazine’s most influential list in 2013; he was awarded the International Press Freedom Award by the CPJ and was chosen by Foreign Policy magazine as one of the global thinkers during the same year.
He is now looking to branch out into both scripted content as well as English language fare. Both UTA and Anonymous Content have been expanding their own footprint in the Arab world recently. UTA has signed up two of the most exciting young filmmakers to emerge from the region in Majid Al-Ansari (Zinzana) and Naji Abu Nowar, whose terrific Bedouin pic Theeb has been nominated for best Foreign Language film at the Academy Awards.
Anonymous has inked a deal to consult with MBC Group, the Arab world’s leading media company. On the heels of becoming the first indie to win best picture and best drama at the Golden Globes — for The Revenant and Mr Robot, respectively — Anonymous Content will now work with MBC subsidiary 03 Productions to advise them on developing and producing both Arabic and English-language content. The deal allows MBC, by some margin the biggest TV network and production platform in the Arab world, access to Anonymous’ creative know-how, experience and, in specific cases, talent roster.