Ten years ago Sunday. Doesn’t seem that long, really, but a lot has happened since then, so it must be true.
The common question is, of course, “where were you when it happened?” Most of the answers are pretty mundane — I was right here where I am now, early in the morning, doing what I’m doing now, working on the computer, when I heard about the first plane hitting the tower. But for comedians, the questions are different. When did you feel it was safe to be funny again? Where did you find humor in the darkest of hours? If ever there was a time when the question “too soon?” wasn’t funny in and of itself, that was it.
This CNN report looks at how comedians dealt with the terrorist attacks ten years ago:
In the segment, our own Chris Hardwick talks about his experience being on a plane at JFK when the attacks happened and going out to see the late Greg Giraldo a couple of weeks later, and Bill Burr, Marc Maron, and Rob Riggle (who was activated from the Marine Reserves after the attacks) talk about their own experiences. There are also clips from the first post-attack episodes of Late Night with Conan O’Brien, The Daily Show, The Late Show with David Letterman, and Saturday Night Live.
You can find analyses of how 9/11 affected comedy elsewhere, like AJ Aronstein at Splitsider discussing how, for a moment, sincerity displaced irony, or this piece from WNYC in New York that examines the same issue and includes a talk with Gilbert Gottfried, who discusses his now-legendary Comedy Central roast appearance (a poorly-received 9/11 joke that led to his epic version of “The Aristocrats”). And Dave Berg, former producer at The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, has a piece in The Washington Times describing how that show dealt with the first post-attack episode.
I don’t know whether there’s a real answer to any of the questions about comedy after 9/11. It’s impossible to pinpoint the moment the general public was ready to find things funny again, or explain why. Was it Saturday Night Live? The Onion? A live comedy show you saw? If you want to give it a shot, or you have some memories of that time and how long it took you to think about anything other than what happened that morning, the comments below are the place to do it.
(The usual weekly wrapup will resume next week)