Egyptian Sarcasm Society
Black humor on the Internet makes free speech go viral
On the streets of Egypt’s low-class urban communities, youth call out to each other, whistling and yelling, “Hey pal” or “Hey buddy.”
It’s natural that these adolescents communicate with their friends in the language of their generation: They use a compassionate call, a welcoming voice, and lend an ear that listens attentively to their friends, hearing their news and future plans.
- “From Egypt” attempts to draw a cultural map of Egypt and the Arab world by profiling the artistic, literary, and political issues that affect the region via on-the-ground coverage of current events, publications, and the fight for freedom of expression.
- Hamdy El-Gazzar is an Egyptian writer and one of the 39 young Arab writers included in the Beirut 39 Project. His first novel, Sihr Aswad (Dar Merit, 2005) won the prestigious Sawaris Award, and was subsequently translated by Humphrey Davies (Black Magic, AUC Press, 2007). His second novel, Ladhdhat Sirriyya (Secret Pleasures) was published by Dar al-Dar in 2008. He is currently working on a third novel.
Not surprisingly, this close way of referring to each other has found another home in the public sphere of the Internet and its memes. In this way the internet brings together people who know each other personally and others who have never met, becoming a social and artistic phenomenon in the process.
The first page devoted to dark humor in Egypt is called “Egyptian Sarcasm Society” and it appeared on Facebook in April, 2012. It was founded by two college students, Hossam Hamed from the Faculty of Mass Communication at Cairo University, and his cousin, Mohamed Abdelmoneim, from the Department of Information Technology and Accounting. The page quickly gained popularity among students and the youth of the Revolution and now has three and a half million followers. In interviews with television and newspaper reporters the two students have said that they created the page to reflect on their participation in the Revolution and the political scenario, while adding a new element to the mix: Humor. Thus they came up with a character named The “Brince Atef” (Hey Buddy), the steady icon and the supposed administrator of the page.
On the page “Hey Buddy” and his friends comment on multiple issues in the country using the raw materials of dark humor: Sarcasm and jokes. They take a picture of any public figure and add sharp captions in Photoshop. Depending on the case, these phrases appear in formal Arabic, spoken dialect, or misspelled foreign languages.
Though in a short period of time, around 600 imitations of “Hey Buddy” have appeared on the web, to the extent that viewers cannot distinguish between the original and its replicas. However, this doesn’t matter very much since “Hey Buddy” has become a public Facebook character whose original creator remains anonymous. A group of Moroccan users claim that it’s really a Moroccan character that was stolen by the two Egyptian men. However, perhaps because of the repetitions of these accusations, Hossam Hamed and Mohamed Abdelmoneim will remain free of Bassem Youssef’s scrutiny.
I can’t finish this article without presenting one of the jokes from the Egyptian Sarcasm Society’s page:
A man asks a woman for a photo of herself; she says, “Sure, but give me one of your sister in exchange.”
The devil put his cigarette out and clapped.