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Sunday, September 11, 2011

America the Beautiful, cont'd

Photo by mbeard.

Comments (3)

I'm not supposed to call attention to my freelance career, but it's 9/11 and I want to share one aspect of it that seems more remarkable to me as the years past. As you can imagine, all the regularly scheduled late night shows stopped on that September morning, and I was also immediately laid off from my radio network job writing topical comedy.

The Tribune called and said my normally lighthearted column was on hold, but I told the editor that I knew a lot about this, having lost my best friend in an attack on a Pan Am jet in Rome when I was 19. For me 9/11 was like a painful part of my past coming back - only this time everyone got it. It's a long journey dealing with the idea that human beings would put such a hurt on someone you loved. So I wrote a column about my own private 9/11 - actually, the incident was the lead news story in the world for 3 days beginning on December 17th, 1973. The column went in that Friday.

By Saturday, Mayor Guiliani was on SNL urging the comedy writers of the world to go back to work. Meanwhile, articles appeared saying that comedy itself had changed and that the Age of Irony was dead. The ironic part of that was I was unaware that we had been in the Age of Irony.

Monday, Letterman came back with a heartbreaking opening speech. This is the show where Dan Rather started weeping. Tuesday Leno came back, also with a speech, rather than jokes, but by Wednesday, he tried the first monologue on late night television since it happened.

It was 8 days after 9/11 and America was the toughest room in the history of comedy. The first joke was, "This is a tough time for comedy, but we've had other tough times. Remember when President Clinton stopped dating for 3 weeks? That was a tough time for comedy too."

I wrote that joke. It was the first joke on national late night TV after 9/11 and I wrote it. I'm not supposed to say anything, but I don't care about that anymore. It was a horrible time, but I used my head start dealing with the topic through having a friend be burned alive on Pan Am, to try and be funny for America after 9/11. I knew what lay ahead for the States, because it had already happened to me.

Everyone had their own private story of those days - many so much more dramatic than mine. But as the years roll on, it's becoming even more obvious that we were all part of the kind of historic event that rarely happens in the world. I just felt I had to share my tiny little part of it.

Thank you Bill.

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