Irony was dead, they said. Humor was unseemly. And late-night comics, those unacknowledged legislators of America, no longer had anything to say to us. Yet it took a late-night comic to voice, movingly and indelibly, how we felt. "We're told [the terrorists] were zealots fueled by religious fervor," said the subdued but resilient host. "If you live to be a thousand years old, will that make any sense to you? Will that make any goddam sense?" And just as important, he and his counterparts at The Daily Show, South Park and Late Night with Conan O'Brien gradually came back from comedy's self-imposed mourning period to show that topical, cutting satire wasn't just appropriate; it was downright American.