For the past two weeks, we’ve been documenting the Roots of the Rally To Restore Sanity (and/or Fear!), in an effort to demonstrate how, over the course of many years, the Daily Show and the Colbert Report have made a sincere and sustained effort to encourage a more sane and reasonable discourse. Readers have sent in suggestions, and they were magnificent. Your human flesh search engine act found key moments from past segments and forgotten interviews that gave birth to the sanity concept. At times, you all found the origins of the language Jon Stewart used to introduce the rally itself. From me to all of you, I’m very grateful for your long memories and the eloquent cases you made.
We close out this examination with the most cited moment from readers, and it’s perhaps the most seminal moment in the history of the Daily Show. It was the opening segment of the September 20, 2001 edition of the Daily Show, their first show back from the attacks of September 11th. Jon Stewart took to the stage, and made his best effort at elucidating the great grief that the country was feeling, unsure of when or how he’d be able to be funny again. It was a weird time for the show. “Irony” has been declared to be dead. There was little to joke about, and few in the mood. But that’s what comedians do, they take risks and make leaps and hope that they’ve got wit and soul enough in them to expose some truths and settle some nerves and unite an audience in common mirth.
This is the segment where Stewart talks about the privilege of getting to do the Daily Show, to be allowed to chuck “spitballs” from the “back of the country” at the news of the day. A lot of the people who believe that it’s not Stewart’s role to attempt anything resembling seriousness cite that “spitballs” line as the moment that Stewart permanently defined himself. They forget what he says next: “Our show has changed. I don’t doubt that. What it’s become, I don’t know.”
The rest of the clip speaks for itself, so I guess I should get out of the way of the pictures! I’ll only add that when I watched this again, after so many years, I couldn’t help but think that maybe someone has recently stolen this segment, stripped it of its sincerity, and turned it into self-serving schtick. Maybe someone should go and steal it back.
See you tomorrow!
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon – Thurs 11p / 10c|
|September 11, 2001|