Nightly News   |  April 06, 2013

Egypt’s ‘Jon Stewart’ in the spotlight

To fans of controversial Egyptian comedian and TV host Bassem Youssef, he’s “a pioneer” and “one of the funniest guys in Cairo.” To his critics, he’s an incendiary force who insults Islam under the guise of free speech. NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> now imagine an arrest warrant was issued for jon stewart or another known comedian because satire was deemed offensive to some in the audience. that's exactly what happened this past week in egypt to a man who has modelled himself after stewart . here's more from cairo.

>> reporter: he's hugely popular, watched by millions and now out on bail and back on the air. his name is bessen musev. they call him the egyptian jon stewart . his weekly show looks a lot like stewart 's daily show where he's been a guest.

>> we are not very much different.

>> no. i think you look better in a suit, but other than that, i think we're the same.

>> reporter: a former heart surgeon , he idolized stewart and started his own show in his laundry room. it went on to become the most widely watched show in the middle east .

>> he says it like it is but with a lot of sense of humor.

>> reporter: like his idol, yusef makes comedy out of political discontent, and there is plenty of that in egypt where nothing seems to work and democracy is struggling. he even mocks president moresy while insisting he's just a comedian.

>> i don't take aim as the president, i take aim at the authority, because this is what sarcasm is all about.

>> reporter: now he's at the center of a firestorm over free speech , facing charges of insulting the president and denigrating islam. and jon stewart has taken notice.

>> making fun of the president's hats in less than fluent english? that was my entire career for eight years!

>> reporter: stewart took aim at morrissey himself.

>> by wait, without bessen and all those bloggers who took voice to a brave descent, you would not be in a position to repress them. for someone who has spent time in jail yourself.

>> reporter: a link to stewart 's comments was in cairo. a resident complained and they deleted the tweet. do you feel like they're looking at this as a test whether there will be free speech or not?

>> you said it.

>> reporter: back on the air, yusef came out swinging at egypt 's prosecutor, the muslim brotherhood , and even president morsi.

>> what can they do, close down youtube? they're just going to leave the country.

>> reporter: now yusef waits to see if he'll be put on trial.