Monatov: Funny But Short-Lived Political Satire in Egypt
Not all political comedy is as successful as Bassem Youssef’s. Take for example, the delightful “Monatov.”
Monatov was a web based political comedy series like Bassem Youssef’s B+. It was a labor of love by actress Mona Hala, producer Ahmed Fahmy and writer Haisam Abu Samra, who had worked together on two Ramadan series, Lamba Show (Lamp Show) and Rob’e Meshakel (Mixed Quarter), two parody programs modeled after Saturday Night Live in the US. Mona Hala was one of the first public figures to prominently join the protests in Tahrir Square.
The title is a combination of the actress’s first name and “Molotov”–after the cocktail, of course.
The Monatov sequences are faster paced, edgier and more daring than most of Bassem Youssef’s stuff, fitting Mona Hala’s high energy style, and seem to draw their inspiration more from fast-paced MTV style television than from the news parodies of the Daily Show and the Colbert Report, from which Bassem Youssef derives his inspiration.
They were initially very popular, garnering over a million hits apiece on YouTube.
But the show also got Mona Hala into more trouble than Bassem Youssef has so far had to deal with.
While her first episode mocked Mubarak and the regime, the second mocked artists like Amr Diab and Tamer Hosny who changed sides from supporting the regime to supporting the protesters. The third made fun of the sudden proliferation of patriotic songs after the resignation of Mubarak, especially by artists who had not supported the protests.
Fans of the artists mocked by Monatov in these episodes were not amused. They hacked her Facebook page and posted insults, scurrilous attacks and mocking videos. Although she got control of her own Facebook page back, several Mona Hala haters Facebook pages were established including a Cause page and a Community page, none of which have more than a few thousand members.
Hala retaliated with angry retorts including obscenities, which shocked many of her fans who still remembered her as the sweet 16-year old host of the children’s series Yallabina (“Let’s Go!”). So her rebuttals produced more criticism of her from audiences that had been neutral on the original issue of the atacks!
Among the attacks were threats against her for filming “sensual” scenes (her movie Colors of the Seven Skies was singled out) and for not wearing the veil. The actress claimed that people had even offered her money to wear the veil, which she argued was a sin, commercializing religion.
The sixth (and so far last) episode uploaded to Monatov’s YouTube channel was dated June 2, 2011. Monatov has a Facebook page which also shows the last episode to have been produced in June 2011. People continue to post their own jokes and funny clips to the site, however.
It is not clear why “Monatov” stopped after only six episodes, but it’s reasonable to assume that the costs in time and money, with little or no revenue gained, combined with high levels of criticism and the actress’s increasingly busy schedule–she’s appeared in at least two Egyptian programs and one international film (Cairo Time) since Monatov appeared–made it hard to maintain.
Abdel Aziz, Ahmed. 2011. Satirical Show Proving Controversial. Egyptian Gazette, Apr. 13
Awad, Sherif. 2012. Stay or Go? Rising actress Mona Hala on the future — or lack of it — of the arts in Egypt. Egypt Today, July 5.