How do you move on after a tragedy? When do things become normal again?
For many, being able to laugh is the first giant step forward.
In the weeks that followed the September 11 terrorist attacks, late night hosts, comedy writers, and satirists of all stripes slowly returned to the business of making us laugh, while also sharing their grief, confusion and sense of loss.
From David Letterman's heartfelt opening monologue to The Onion's cathartic angry God to Marc Maron simply going to work at a comedy club, these steps, large and small, helped Americans turn the corner.
Here are some of the most important moments in comedy following September 11, 2001. How many do you remember and which one affected you the most? (Note: many of the clips are not available for embed, so we have provided links to where you can view them.)
On September 17, David Letterman was the first comedian to return to the air. His opening monologue has been <a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2007/02/01/entertainment/main2423614.shtml">called</a> "one of the purest, most honest and important moments in TV history." Towards the end of his remarks he gave voice to the utter confusion many Americans felt: "We’re told they were zealots fueled by religious fervor. Religious fervor. And if you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any sense to you? Will that make any goddamn sense?” The full clip of Letterman's opening remarks <a href="http://videosift.com/video/David-Letterman-comments-attack-on-the-US-after-911-WTC">can be seen here</a> and the full transcript is <a href="http://www.ddy.com/dl13.html">here</a>.
The Daily Show
Jon Stewart followed in Letterman's footsteps on Sept. 20, speaking from the heart and trying to make sense of things. "The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center. Now it's gone... But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is the Statue of Liberty. You can’t beat that."
Late Night With Conan O'Brien
Conan O'Brien, who was then the host of Late Night in New York, opened his first show following the tragedy by thanking his audience: "I want to begin by thanking a studio audience that would come here and support New York and the show, and everything, just - in the situation in general - just for being here," Conan started. "It's just tremendous for you to be here." An unofficial (and bizarrely framed) video of the monologue can be seen <a href="http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RbRErvSjMTk&feature=related">here</a>.
'The Onion's' first issue after September 11 was almost universally lauded. With headlines like, <a href="http://www.theonion.com/articles/god-angrily-clarifies-dont-kill-rule,222/">"God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule"</a>, and "<a href="http://www.theonion.com/articles/hijackers-surprised-to-find-selves-in-hell,1445/">Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell"</a> it provided the cathartic laughs we didn't realize we needed.
Saturday Night Live
The first episode of 'SNL' after 9/11 began with a cold open featuring Rudy Giuliani and NYC firefighters and police officers. When Lorne Michaels asked the mayor if it was ok for them to be funny again, Giuliani responded, "Why start now?" The show then moved on to a monologue by host Reese Withershpoon, featuring a blandly sweet street joke about polar bears that was meant to ease everyone into the idea of watching a sketch comedy show.
Many were baffled by South Park's "Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants" episode, but casting Cartman as a Bugs Bunny-style prankster tormenting a daffy Bin Laden was somehow both inventive and nostalgic. <a href="http://www.southparkstudios.com/full-episodes/s05e09-osama-bin-laden-has-farty-pants">Watch the full episode here.</a>
Jon Stewart Presents: A Puppy
At the close of "The Daily Show's" return episode, Jon gave America a tender-hearted and adorable "Moment of Zen." Watch the clip <a href="http://www.thedailyshow.com/watch/thu-september-20-2001/a-puppy?xrs=share_copy">here</a>.
Marc Maron "The Voice Of Something"
In this documentary by Jodi Lennon released last year on the 10th anniversary of 9/11, we see a day in the life of comedian Marc Maron as he navigates the tricky waters of performing topical comedy a week after 9/11.
Gilbert Gottfried Performs 'The Aristocrats' At The Friar's Roast Of Hugh Hefner
Three weeks after the attacks, Gilbert Gottfried told a joke referencing 9/11 at the Friar's roast of Hugh Hefner and it didn't go over well. After losing the audience to groans and shouts of "too soon," Gottfried abandoned the rest of his set and told the famous "The Aristocrats" joke, winning back the audience. The joke was mostly edited for broadcast on Comedy Central, but can be seen in the Paul Provenza's & Penn Jillette film "The Aristocrats."
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