COMEDY

Laughter After 9/11: The Moments David Letterman, Jon Stewart & Others Brought Us Back

On this national day of reflection and memorial, we want to once again take a look back at those moments that proved the "healing power of comedy" to be true.

From David Letterman's first night back at "Late Show" to The Onion's brilliantly cathartic post-9/11 issue to Gilbert Gottfried's legendarily filthy roast of Hugh Hefner, these are the times we realized that it was okay, and even necessary, to laugh again.

  • David Letterman
    CBS
    On September 17, David Letterman was the first comedian to return to the air. His opening monologue has been called "one of the purest, most honest and important moments in TV history." Toward 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 can be seen here and the full transcript is here.
  • The Daily Show
    Comedy Central
    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
    AP
    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 here.
  • The Onion
    The Onion's first issue after Sept. 11 was almost universally lauded. With headlines like, <a href="http://www.theonion.com/a
    The Onion
    The Onion's first issue after Sept. 11 was almost universally lauded. With headlines like, "God Angrily Clarifies 'Don't Kill' Rule", and "Hijackers Surprised To Find Selves In Hell" it provided the cathartic laughs we didn't realize we needed.
  • Saturday Night Live
    NBC
    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 okay for them to be funny again, Giuliani responded, "Why start now?" The show then moved on to a monologue by host Reese Witherspoon, featuring a blandly sweet street joke about polar bears that was meant to ease everyone into the idea of watching a sketch comedy show.
  • South Park
    Many were baffled by South Park's "Osama Bin Laden Has Farty Pants" episode, but casting Cartman as a Bugs Bunny-style pranks
    Comedy Central
    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. Watch the full episode here.
  • 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
    Comedy Central
    At the close of "The Daily Show's" return episode, Jon gave America a tender-hearted and adorable "Moment of Zen." Watch the clip here.
  • Marc Maron "The Voice Of Something"
    Jodi Lennon
    In this documentary by Jodi Lennon released 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
    The Aristocrats
    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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