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'People here in Canada are just wonderful': The 'Egyptian Jon Stewart' praises Vancouver after show in city

The funnyman has made appearances on The Daily Show and is popular around the world.
Known as the "Egyptian Jon Stewart," Bassem Youssef is popular around the world and played a show at The Rio Theatre in Vancouver during the Just For Laughs festival.

He's one of the most recognizable faces in Egypt -- but in North America, he's best known as the "Egyptian Jon Stewart."

Comedian and political satirist Bassem Youssef made a name for himself by creating the popular YouTube-to-television show AlBernameg. Not unlike the format of The Daily Show -- the show that brought American comedian Jon Stewart to fame -- his show made clever critiques of Egyptian political figures and quickly became the most widely-viewed show in the Middle East.

While the humorist was forced to flee his homeland in 2014, he's been touring around the world and living in Los Angeles with his family. On Wednesday (Feb. 22), he played a show at The Rio Theatre on Broadway at Commercial Drive as part of the Just For Laughs comedy festival in Vancouver.

"The people here in Canada are just wonderful and very, very friendly," he tells V.I.A., adding that he just enjoyed a seaplane ride around the city for a different interview.

"I'm going to put that in my contract that all interviews should be had in a seaplane," he jokes. "My favourite place in Vancouver is generally Stanley Park, so now I got to see it from above...that was quite an experience and I'm very happy I did it."

Youssef is playing another show at the Rio at 9 p.m. Thursday (Feb. 23), and encourages locals of all backgrounds to come out.

"It is a comedy show but for me, it is also a reinvention," he explains, describing how he has had to teach himself stand-up comedy in English after performing in Arabic all of his life. 

"I have only been doing stand-up comedy in English for four years. I am very proud of what I have achieved and people can relate to it because we as humans are in a constant state of reinvention."

Youssef is known as the "Egyptian Jon Stewart" around the world

When asked how he feels about being called the "Egyptian Jon Stewart," Youssef says it is an "honour" and the comparison makes it easier to explain to people what he does.

But the scope of the Egyptian funnyman's story extends far beyond the comparison with The Daily Show host.

Youssef's performance, while peppered with numerous quips and a variety of "easy laughs," is carefully constructed in a narrative arc that spotlights a range of heavy topics, such as racism against Middle Eastern people, political brutality, and the immigrant experience in the United States.

Not unlike Stewart's trademark political satire, Youssef isn't shy about making his audience uncomfortable. But the comic says there is something for everyone in the show as long as they come with an open mind. 

"They should expect the story of a person who started his career in heart surgery and then became a comedian based off [feeling that] the government had to be kicked out. And then came to America to a very unusual political time with [Donald] Trump," he said.

"So that's basically the arc of the story...the story of basically being a fish out of [the] water the whole time.

"I think you can find yourself in [my] show, no matter what your background is."