How 9/11 Changed Comedy

Wednesday, September 07, 2011

Life changed for most Americans after 9/11, but comedians faced a very specific dilemma: when and how to make people laugh again. Comedic television programs like "Saturday Night Live" and "The Daily Show" struggled with this question as they began their fall seasons in late September of 2001, and comedians like Gilbert Gottfried faced decisions on whether it was appropriate to joke about 9/11 when performing live.

WNYC's Jim O'Grady spoke with several comedians, including Gottfried, about how being funny changed after 9/11.


Jim O'Grady

Produced by:

Sitara Nieves

Comments [3]

Kathy Borst from Mendocino, CA

I'm not a comedian, I'm a high school teacher (math). The morning of 9/11 I was seriously conflicted about how to continue on with life as usual. As we discussed the events of the morning in my first period class, we talked about why people engage in terrorism. That a primary reason is to instill terror and disrupt normal life. As shaken as we were, we agreed that the only action available to us to counter this horrid event, was to proceed with life as normally as possible, while respecting the tragic loss of life. So we did some math and, slowly, the laughter and normalcy returned. It did help that we were in CA but I think I would have done the same anywhere. Otherwise, they win. Can't let that happen.

Sep. 07 2011 03:19 PM
Dan Bernard from Portland, Maine

I'm a comedian and comedy writer...I was riveted to all of the news regarding the attack and our response. Result: "The Search for Bin Laden," an November,2001 radio mock news special about a hapless reporter parachuting into Afghanistan after that key interview with Bin Laden. We visit his cave, hear his personal standup comedian who attempts to cheer the moody terrorists, and finally witness well-dressed Mafioso arriving at the cave and killing bin Laden and his men. Mock commercials and more.

Sep. 07 2011 09:22 AM

I had two advantages getting my sense of humor back after 9/11: First, i was in California, a whole continent away from it on the date; and, I had a show booked that weekend, and management had no intention of canceling. It was the second time I had to perform during a time of national shock; my first school play opened 22 November 1963.

I hope nothing like this ever happens sgain, but if it does, I hope to be one of the first entertainers out. The first laugh begins the healing.

Sep. 07 2011 09:11 AM

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