Friday, Dec. 21, 2001

David Letterman's Post-Sept. 11 Return

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.