Satire is one of the most important, popular and effective tools for leveling political, social, and economic criticisms. Different countries have known different forms of satire throughout different ages. During the Ancient Greek era, public theaters were home to the art of the dramatic monologue which later developed to appear in plays, songs, and the cinema.
In the Arab world, exceptional talents arose in this particular field. In Egypt, famous composers Sayed Darwish and Sheikh Imam mastered the art of the “political” song, not to mention poet Ahmed Fouad Negm. These songs and poems, whether about occupation, inflation, corruption, unemployment or any other sensitive issues, shook the Arab street to its core.
In the post-Arab Spring world today, we have all seen how satire and the satirical media has secured a strong presence in the political arena. On YouTube, astonishingly successful shows are being uploaded presenting content that enjoys high viewership figures, particularly among the youths. These YouTube channels and program present satirical takes on well-known social and economic issues blighting Arab society. Two examples immediately sping to mind when talking about popular YouTube programming.
Firstly is Bassem Youssef’s Albernameg [The Program]. Youssef was an Egyptian surgeon who successfully transformed himself into a media personality via his YouTube show, when went on to gain international fame throughout the Arab world. Secondly, we have Lebanon’s Nadim Koteich and his satirical DNA television show.
In these two shows, the two anchors give their satirical take on the latest news that, given the situation in the Arab world, is closer to a black comedy. This takes a huge dose of courage, particularly as it is the worst and most troubling news stories that are most open to ridicule.
Bassem Youssef was phenomenally successful in this endeavor doing the presidency of Mohamed Mursi in Egypt, a period in which news-makers and state officials took numerous comedic stances and positions. In fact, during Mursi’s single year in office satirists were presented with decades worth of material. This perhaps explains Bassem Youssef’s disappearance from our television screens. Post-Mursi Egypt cannot be as open to ridicule and jest as the Mursi era.
As for Nadim Koteich, he is a TV anchor and journalist who has been known for his technical proficiency throughout his career, preparing all his subject-matter in a cautious and delicate manner so that the content of whatever he presents is always well-respected. However what remains is his “delivery”, which came as a complete surprise to his audience. Koteich achieved a striking amount of success in Lebanon for his unique blend of serious and satirical news analyses. Utilizing his unique tone and facial and hand gestures, Koteich has commented sarcastically on Hezbollah’s “resistance” in Syria, and the Assad regime’s “resistance” against its own people. Michel Aoun, Suleiman Frangieh, and Wiam Wahhab have also found themselves the target of his sharp wit, not to mention his targeting of the so-called “media Shabiha” such as Sherif Shehada, Khaled Al-Abbboud, Taleb Ibrahim, and Nasser Qandil.
Bassem Youssef and Nadim Koteich are both successful examples of satire’s ability to impact the political arena and influence the general public. Thus, satire has become a major tool in forming and influencing public opinion. So, let me take this opportunity to say welcome to the world of satire and satirical media!