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Bassem Youssef, who shot to global stardom as “the Jon Stewart of Egypt” before and during the Arab Spring, said at MIPCOM in Cannes that the revolution is continuing in the hearts and minds of the youth of the Middle East.
The heart surgeon-turned-talk show host told a crowd assembled for a presentation from Twitter that the Middle East is an untapped pool of talent and viewers.
“The Middle East is the most undiscovered, highest potential in the world,” he said. “I think it’s like the only undiscovered territory. We have a huge gap between producers and consumers of content.”
He added: “There are millions of people in the Arab world and amazing talents to be discovered and they’d like a path to be discovered. They are working very hard on [building] digital platforms” that can circumvent any government interference. He also praised the ease of Periscope live streaming and said it would have changed the revolution if people could have seen live video of the events as they unfolded.
He also joked about still being known as “the Jon Stewart of the Middle East” despite being passed over for the job as host of The Daily Show on Comedy Central.
“I’m a local personality in the Middle East, and suddenly all these people were like, ‘You should be the next Jon Stewart’,” he said. “I got my hopes up, but then they gave it to Trevor Noah. I’m fine with it. I’m over it. I mean, I’m African too, but that’s OK,” he joked.
He also said that despite political changes over the past four years the ripples of revolution are still moving. “Revolutions are not events, they are a series of processes, they are something in the making,” he said. “The fact that the revolution is defeated, this is not the end. The revolution is happening the minds and hearts of so many young people. What happened gave incredible potential for people to question everything, and questioning in and of itself is a revolution.”
Seventy percent of the Egyptian population is under 40 years old, he highlighted. “That’s an incredible power waiting to be tapped. I think we have not seen the end of it yet. The amazing creativity we have seen in the last four years will be put to good use, and I think the revolution isn’t really defeated. There is much, much more to come.”
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