LONDON: Asharq News, the multi-platform service with an exclusive content agreement for business news with Bloomberg, has secured a show for Egyptian comedian Bassem Youssef ahead of its official launch.
However, Youssef will not be returning as the quick-witted political satirist the Arab world was used to seeing on his hit show “Al-Bernameg” (The Program). Instead he will rely on his medical experience to advise audiences on the benefits of plant-based diets for health.
Referring to his show “Isa’al Bassem” (Ask Bassem), Youssef told Arab News: “To have this opportunity, to be on this kind of a platform in order to show people a different path to wellness, is amazing.”
The comedian said he shifted his own diet to plant-based foods after learning that a close childhood friend had recovered from life-threatening multiple sclerosis by adopting a similar approach.
“I was sold and I changed my life. I remember the date, Sept. 15, 2013 — seven years ago — and I never went back,” said Youssef. “I immediately felt a difference in my life, in my health, my stamina, my energy.”
The comedian is a qualified surgeon who graduated from Cairo University’s Faculty of Medicine, majoring in cardiothoracic surgery, in 1998.
In 2013, he started Plant B in Egypt and watched it slowly grow into a movement, with discussions and advice on the health benefits of this lifestyle posted on social media and his website PlantB.tv in both English and Arabic.
Youssef said “Isa’al Bassem” will offer “a mixture of interviews, personal journeys, information, and discussions on health topics, not only about losing weight but also mental health, sexual health, fertility, and how food affects your mood, your sleep.”
He said: “I think Plant B is only going to get bigger and the movement is going to grow. We’re planning big things in the future to accommodate many of the people who have followed us and benefited from us, and who still want to have benefits in their lifestyle.”
From Cairo to LA
Youssef left Cairo in 2014 and now lives in Los Angeles, far from the crowds that once gathered at the sight of him walking along the Egyptian capital’s sidewalks.
“It’s much cooler this way,” he said.
“I am now in America and am more focused on my life here. I am doing stand-up comedy, one-man shows, talks and live performances. This has been an incredible journey for me. Leaving ‘Al-Bernameg’ in Egypt kind of liberated me to explore options that I never thought I would be able to,” he told Arab News.
Apart from hosting “Isa’al Bassem” on Asharq, which has an exclusive content agreement with Bloomberg for business news, Youssef has been working on several side projects in the US — from penning television scripts to writing children’s books.
“I wrote a children’s book that is going to launch in February called ‘The Magical Reality of Nadia.’ It is based on my daughter — the daughter of an immigrant in the US — and will discuss interesting and important issues that immigrants face. But it’s in a children’s book. It’s magical, beautiful, funny, and we’re very excited,” he said.
While Youssef’s political satire made him a household name in the Arab world, the comedian insists that he has never left that domain, but is just in a different country focusing on his current surroundings.
“I still do politics, still do a little comedy, but I’m a resident of the US, so I talk about the surroundings I am exposed to every day. People are still locked into this idea of ‘Al-Bernameg,’ of what I did, but this is something that happened when I was in Egypt,” he said.
Meanwhile, he is excited to be able to offer a healthier approach to life in his new show and help audiences around the Arab world better understand the benefits of plant-based diets.
“This is an amazing thing, and I said we need to make this movement much bigger. Asharq was launching this channel and we discussed having a show, which is, for me, amazing because seven years ago this was something that people made fun of and now I’m bringing plant-based lifestyle into the mainstream,” he said.
Asharq News is a 24/7 multi-platform news service that brings content to users in the Arab region and the rest of the world, providing news and analysis, often through an economic prism.
Headquartered in Riyadh, with central offices in Dubai and Washington D.C, Asharq News also includes hubs in Abu Dhabi, and Cairo, with regional offices in Beirut, Baghdad, Jerusalem and Istanbul.