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Crossing linesYoussef Ouf: 1928 -1999
By Fatemah Farag
The death of a man who brought happiness to the lives of many was tragic; an infection of the pancreas brought the life of Youssef Ouf to an end on 28 April. He was 71. Thus, the nation lost one of its most prominent comedy writers, who not only made people laugh, but was also concerned with the crucial issues of his time and who strongly championed the cause of freedom of expression.
Born on 29 January 1928, Ouf joined Cairo University's Faculty of Agriculture in the late 1940s. Ironically, this is where he began writing and acting. He established an acting troupe -- El-Darawish -- and a student magazine, in which he wrote a column entitled Bab Zeweila.
After graduating, he worked for the Ministry of Education but in 1950 joined the radio service. He was chosen by the well-known radio announcer Ahmed Taher to join the production team of the popular programme Sa'a li Qalbak (An hour for your heart) as both scriptwriter and actor. This was the beginning of a 35-year-long career with Radio Cairo, in which he wrote many of Egypt's most popular radio shows.
In addition to Sa'a li Qalbak there was Mish Ma'aqoul (Incredible), a weekly programme which ran for three years, starring Hassan Abdeen, who was replaced, after his death, by Yehyia El-Fakharani. It is said that the programme was short-lived because it crossed too many "red lines". Memorable also were Qoul Ya Sobh (Why don't you change the subject?) in addition to 15 serials, such as El-Hitha'a El-Khashabi (The wooden shoe). Ouf wrote hundreds of scripts for radio, a medium which he always said was the driving force behind his success.
After Sa'a li Qalbak came to an end in 1962, Ouf formed a theatrical troupe under the same name with such prominent actors as Abdel-Moneim Madbouli, Khaireya Ahmed, whom he married in the same year, Gamalat Zayed and Mohamed Youssef. The venture was short-lived, lasting only four years, but during this time Ouf was active not only in writing but also in directing and acting.
Ouf's contributions to television include the 45-episode Saken Qosadi (He lives opposite my house) soap opera and the Saatein Helween (Two happy hours) programme.
He amused theatre-goers with Hello Shalabi, Ya Kida Ya Kida (Either or), Raqisa Qita'a Aam (A public sector belly-dancer) and Moulid Sidi El-More'b (A frightening festival) -- in total, over 20 popular productions. His last play, Meen Yishtiri Misr (Who is buying Egypt?) will be produced posthumously and directed by Mohamed Abu Dawood.
In cinema, Ouf's contributions included Aalam Modhek Giddan (A very funny world) and Akazib Hawaa (The lies of Eve).
He even left his mark in the printed press, writing a column for the weekly October magazine under the title Moghamarat El-Siyassi Bey (Adventures of a politician), as well as Homoum Dahika (Funny worries) for the Shabab magazine and Fadfadah (Letting off steam) for Caricature.
He is survived by one son.