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Filmmaker Considers Documentary A Cautionary Tale For Americans

Sara Taksler
The Daily Show Senior Producer Sara Taksler made the film "Tickling Giants."

Free speech and the powers of the government in this country have been talked about a lot recently. A new documentary being screened March 21 in Seattle takes a look at those issues through the lens of the aftermath of the Arab Spring, and the man known as the “Egyptian Jon Stewart.”


The film “Tickling Giants” focuses on Dr. Bassem Youssef. He used a nightly television show watched by tens of millions of people as his way to protect free speech and fight political leaders.


Youssef eventually ended the show, citing concerns for his family’s safety.


Sara Taksler is a senior producer for The Daily Show, and made “Tickling Giants.” She talked with 88.5’s Ariel Van Cleave about how the documentary could resonate with an American audience.



Interview highlights

What drew Taksler to Dr. Bassem Youssef:

"When I met Bassem, and a few of his team members when they came to observe The Daily Show, I was really taken by the fact that they were doing what we do, but with such incredibly high stakes. They were making jokes about the president when you weren't allowed to make jokes about the president. They were talking about government and religion and politics and things that were just not done in Egypt. And at the time, I could not imagine having a president who would be that thin-skinned."

Doctor by day, host by night:

"For Bassem it was a happy accident. He talks about the fact that satire comes from sarcasm's root word, which is sarcasmo, and that word means to cut through, or to peel away layers. So there's kind of this interesting thing where in surgery, you're literally cutting through layers. And in satire, you're making jokes about something and peeling back all the BS so you can see the truth."

The takeaway for America:

"We were doing a screening right after the U.S. election that weekend, and one of the members of the audience came up to me and said 'this is a cautionary tale for America.' And I think the thing about the movie is we already are going in some of the directions that the movie shows us in Egypt in terms of limitations on free speech and a free press, and fears about diversity in your country and fears over religion. We're certainly not that far down the path and we still have choices to make about what direction we're going in."  


Ariel first entered a public radio newsroom in 2004 while in school at Bradley University in Peoria, Illinois. It was love at first sight. After graduating from Bradley, she went on to earn a Master's degree in Public Affairs Reporting from the University of Illinois at Springfield. Ariel has lived in Indiana, Ohio and Alaska reporting on everything from salmon spawning to policy issues concerning education. She's been a host, a manager and now rides shotgun with Kirsten Kendrick as the Morning Edition producer at KNKX.