Jon Stewart has disappeared from The Daily Show this summer, leaving John Oliver to fill in while he works on his film Rosewater in the Middle East. Stewart has not disappeared from the airwaves entirely, though. Over the weekend, he made a guest appearance on Egypt's answer to Stewart's show, Al-Bernameg or The Program. If you are "going through Jon Stewart withdrawal," says Katie Atkinson at Entertainment Weekly, "you're in luck," because it was a vintage performance — "equal parts serious and hilarious."
Stewart was hustled on stage wearing a hood, with two burly men escorting him up to host Bassem Youssef's desk, saying Stewart had been caught as a spy. Stewart cracked plenty of jokes — saying repeatedly, as the audience loudly applauded, the only words he said he had memorized in Arabic: "Please sit down, I am a simple man who does not like to be fussed over."
Setting jokes aside (briefly), Stewart lavished praise on Youssef, who has been hailed as Stewart's "Egyptian counterpart." The doctor-turned-TV-host was arrested and questioned by prosecutors a few months back on charges that he insulted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, along with Islam in general, with some of his jokes. He was released on bail in April. Stewart defended him then, slamming Morsi for the arrest, and commending Youssef in an interview on The Daily Show. Stewart again stood by Youssef during his stop in Cairo.
"If your regime is not strong enough to handle a joke, then you don't have a regime..." Stewart said. "A joke has never ridden a motorcycle into a crowd with a baton. A joke has never shot tear gas into a group of people in a park. It's just talk."
Stewart complimented Youssef for pushing the envelope with his comedic take on post-revolution Egypt, from the hypocrisy of political figures and to the foibles of the country's Islamist leaders. "He is showing that satire can still be relevant," Stewart said, "that it can carve out space in a country for people to express themselves, because that's what democracy is."