October 15, 2019 97

Rebranding Arabs • Democracy Handbook with Bassem Youssef Ep.5

Rebranding Arabs • Democracy Handbook with Bassem Youssef Ep.5


As-salaam alaikum, everyone! My name is Bassem Youssef. In my native Egypt, I was a surgeon— until the Arab Spring, when I realized my country itself had fallen ill. So I created a comedy show to help the nation heal. The people liked it, but the government, not such much. And before things got worse, I left for the land of the free. Now I can learn from the best. After all, this is the United States of America— the greatest democracy on Earth. Right? People call the United States the great melting pot. Everyone of all races, creeds, and colors are equal– in their hatred of Arabs. Only half of you liked us back in 2010, and by 2015, it’s only gotten worse. We’re not just unpopular here, we’re considered an imminent threat. And the horrific shooting in Orlando only made things worse. Even though the overwhelming majority of Muslims deplore what happened as much as the rest of you. But despite that, 60% of Republicans think it’s perfectly acceptable to spy on us. We’re here protesting Syrian refugees coming to America. Protesting the Islamisation of America. So right now for Arabs in America, the outlook is bleak. But that can change. America is the land of re-invention. Rebranding Arabs Rebranding a whole ethnicity is pretty ambitious, so I decided to start small. as in, rebranding this Arab. I decided to consult with an expert in this area. Meet Kevin Walker. I have a branding consultancy called Boardwalk, we’ve been in business since 1990. Can you give me some examples of things that have been rebranded? A good example right now is Sea World. A class action lawsuit against the theme park claims thousands of guests would never have set foot inside if they knew how the killer whales were being treated. Sea World just decided to stop –killing whales. Well, owning them. Keeping them in captivity. Yeah. The audience had grown out of this maritime circus act. What about people? Can people be rebranded? Oh yeah. You take somebody like Arnold Swarzenegger, who started off as a bodybuilder. Morphed into an actor, morphed into a politician. To a Terminator. Now he’s back into acting again, and who knows where he’s going next? So I am a Musim Egyptian. And I want to play down my Arab-ness. Uh… Do I pass for a white person? Uhh… In terms of uhh… Can I pass for an Italian? Yeah, why not? I bet you about half the people you meet already think you’re Italian. No. No? No. I mean, that’s a way you could go if you wanted to. Oh. Adoni, oh. Yeah. Oh. Okay, I’ll work on the Italian. In the meantime, I wanted to see what was working for other Arabs who’ve been here for a bit. Where are you originally from? Jordan. Palestine. I don’t know, what do you want to call it? All right, so you’re an Arab. Yes. No you’re not. I am. You don’t look Arab. You’re tall, and your hair, and you’re from Dallas. You’re not. I have no hair on my chest. (laughs) We hear an explosion –or we hear like a bombing, somewhere. First thing that comes into your mind? I wish it’s not affiliated with Arabs. Exactly. It’s shock value. It gets attention on TV, it gets ratings up. There will be more shootings and deaths in Chicago and LA this week than there will be deaths by ISIS in the whole year. So, what should we do to change our image in the American media? Um, getting more assimilated. How did you get assimilated? Did you get an operation to get taller? No. Is that keratin? No, no there’s a lot f akeratin in my hair, but I just think that the first generation has a hard time assimilating. The Italians had a hard time back in the 1910s, 1915 they had a hard time No. The Germans, too, and it’s the second or third generation that assimilates better. Wait for 2 or 3 generations? Ain’t nobody got time for that! What’s an Arab to do? Thankfully, I found someone out there who wears the Arab brand like a badge of honor. And he’s not even an Arab–he’s Persian! You are the expert? Yes. On how are Arabs being portrayed in the movies. Yeah, well I wrote the book on the subject. Yes. “I’m not a terrorist, but I’ve played one on TV.” What kind of terrorist do you usually play? I played one that was an Afghan, not an Arab, he was working for an Osama bin Laden type guy. I did the terrorist driving a nuclear bomb around. Oh, that’s new. Yes. Halfway through the mission, my terrorist had a change of heart. I don’t want to do this. I played the scientist that was putting the bomb together. Scientist terrorist. It was the scientist terrorist. Which part paid for the patio? The terrorist scientist? Yeah, the terrorist scientist was a good start. That gave me a few thousand dollars. What is the most Middle Easterny lines that you remember saying? I did have a chance to say Allahu Akbar. OK. Just as I was about to try and shoot Chuck Norris. Yeah? But he shoots me before I even get the full statement out. So I basically got Allahu Ak… and that was it. What kind of tips can you give me? First of all, I think you’ve got great eyebrows for that, for the terrorist parts. So when you go into auditions, you keep that eyebrow, You don’t trim it at all. Should I link it? A unibrow. Let me just put it to you this way. If you link it, I’m going to estimate you’ll probably book 8 out of 10, at least. Let the beard grow a little bit. And frown a lot. You make them feel uncomfortable. Yeah. If you really want to go for it, maybe you look at one of the people that’s casting, and you just say “Jew.”Just to say it. Yeah. Just say “Jew.” Even if they’re not Jewish. Maybe the guy’s black. You say “Jew.” You just throw it out there. Yeah. Right. Be loud. Very loud. Even if they’ve written a love scene for the terrorist, which they never have. But f they had, and you gotta say “I love you.” You want to say, “I love you!” Yeah. I’m going to kill myself, I love you so much! If you can throw in, “I kill myself”, the word “kill” should play a lot in. Improvise. So that’s the secret. I don’t need to rebrand myself. I don’t even have to try to pass for an Italian. I can just be your version of me. Arab Terrorist #5. America, I love you!

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