My grandmother used to tell a story about coming to America from Poland. How she sang God Bless America to cheer up all the grownups on the ship. She was 5 or 6 years old, traveling alone with her mom. For her, it must have been a big adventure. I can hardly imagine what it was like for her mom— my great grandmother — how bad things must have been for Jews in their home town of Bialystok for her to pick up and leave like that, without her husband, heading toward some distant cousin in the undiscovered country of Vineland, New Jersey.
My guest today left Egypt as an adult for the US, also under politically grim circumstances. During the Arab Spring, as his country convulsed toward revolution, he became a leading voice of dissent. A trained surgeon, he made an unlikely transition to famous tv satirist for millions of viewers on his nightly political comedy show. Bassem risked jail, helped facilitate the toppling of a dictator who’d been in power for 30 years, and after all that change decided it was time to start a new life in America.
And just yesterday I was complaining that I’m sick of New York City, but I don’t see how I could possibly leave . . .
Bassem Youssef is a comedian, writer, and the smart, funny host of the podcast ReMade in America.
Surprise conversation-starter clips in this episode:
Alvin Hall on being black in the US vs. the UK
Michio Kaku on the new economics of space exploration
Alice Dreger on social media slacktivism
Rob Sheffield, author of the new book Dreaming the Beatles, explains why the Fab Four will be relevant forever
In a matter of days, the 12 jurors will be seated, the lawyers will make their opening statements, and the murder trial of Justin Ross Harris will begin.