The AU College Democrats are hosting a documentary screening next week, on Tuesday April 11 at 7:00 p.m. The event is free, open to anyone interested and will take place in Decker 133.
Tickling Giants documents the true story of the life of Bassem Youssef, a modern-day revolutionary. In the midst of political instability in his home country of Egypt, Youssef quit his job as a heart surgeon to become a full-time comedian.
What started out as a series of YouTube videos set in his laundry room became a small television show which evolved into the Middle East’s first large-scale, live-audience production. Al Bernameg quickly became the most watched television program in the Middle East, with 30 million viewers per episode.
As the popularity of Youssef’s satirical series skyrocketed, so did the controversy over his criticism and jokes about Egypt’s religion and government. Free speech is not law in Egypt, so anyone who speaks out against its government is possibly subject to danger and punishment.
The documentary showcases Youssef and his team enduring physical threats, protests and legal action being taken against them. While fighting to keep his show on the air and his message in circulation, Youssef must simultaneously prevent himself and his staff from getting hurt or arrested.
He now lives in California as a political refugee, and is busy pitching ideas for shows and movies, speaking around the globe and occasionally teaching college courses.
Youssef employs comedy to combat the violence taking over his country, and it is a more effective strategy than one might guess.
In an interview about the film, director Sara Taksler said that “after Youssef was called into court and accused of making jokes about government and religion, I realized how important this story was and how privileged I was to have an opportunity to tell it.” She contacted him the next day and made plans to start filming.
The documentary has been a tremendously meaningful part of Youssef’s journey as a heart-surgeon-turned-comedian-turned-revolutionary.
“Tickling Giants captures what it’s like to make fun of giants, to use satire in the most dangerous situations—when you are standing right under the foot of a giant who could crush you,” he explains. “Instead of running away from danger, you stand your ground and tickle the powers-that-be.”
Viewers of the film are encouraged to support free speech, to reach out to Muslims in their communities, to speak out when they see abuse of power and to find creative, non-violent ways to make their voices heard.
Michael Weigel, vice president of the AU College Democrats, explains the film through his eyes. “The main message it presents is that humor and soft power can be used to change minds and topple regimes just as well, or even more effectively, than a military revolution can.”
Weigel explains that this particular event is for everyone, regardless of political party affiliation. “This film is really about comedy and free speech, which are both pretty non-controversial issues. It’s not exclusively a democratic event. Everyone is welcome,” he said.
Weigel believes it’s important to stay informed about issues like the battle for freedom of speech and religion and the struggle against government in Egypt. These issues may not directly affect most of us in the United States, but they are affecting our brothers and sisters across the world.
“Politics can be an intimidating subject to an outsider because lots of people have very loud opinions about lots of different things,” he said. “The comedic angle makes it a little easier to understand and a little less intimidating.”
Weigel also encourages anyone interested in learning more about or becoming more involved with both local and national politics to attend College Democrat meetings on Tuesday nights at 7:00 p.m. in Decker 377.
“We love our group, but we’re also looking to expand,” he explains. “The issues we talk about are geared towards the average democrat, but everyone is welcome.”
The College Democrats watch documentaries, have discussions centered around prominent political issues and meet with local politicians and representatives for social justice.