Went to see Jon Stewart perform last night at Morsani Hall in Tampa. The show was funny to the point of urinary tract failure in some spots and it was great to see someone from TV who has such obvious talent and intelligence display warmth and playfulness onstage. Tampa took a pretty big hit from him about our insane humidity, our street festival saturation, our collective pirate fixation and about how everything with a flat surface in town bestows a "Go Bucs" sign a month after the Super Bowl. ("I drove up from Fort Lauderdale and when I got into town, I thought it was game day.") I about popped a Macy's Underdog-baloon-sized hernia in his closing bit about the pets he and his wife, a veterinarian technician, live with in their New York City apartment. The ass hair combover moment slayed me as well.
I will be smart enough not to recreate those moments.
Then I remembered that about a week after Sept. 11, Stewart gave one of the more moving post-disaster monologues about the attacks. His humanity and the shock of it all were aparent as he extemporaneously grasped for the right words.
If you didn't catch it, you missed a great TV moment - if there can be such a thing. The words are as good a depiction of the bewildering confusion and fear a lot of people felt, especially in New York City. The video with his voice and his mannerisms does it better justice.
Good evening and welcome to "The Daily Show." We are back. This is our first show since the tragedy in New York City. There is no other way really to start this show than to ask you at home the question that we've asked the audience here tonight and that weíve asked everybody that we know here in New York since September 11th, and that is, "Are you okay?" We pray that you are and that your family is. Iím sorry to do this to you. Itís another entertainment show beginning with an overwrought speech of a shaken host. TV is nothing, if not redundant. So, I apologize for that. Itís something that unfortunately, we do for ourselves so that we can drain whatever abscess is in our hearts and move onto the business of making you laugh, which we really havenít been able to do very effectively lately. Everyoneís checked in already, I know weíre late. Iím sure weíre getting in right under the wire before the cast of "Survivor" offers their insight into what to do in these situations.
They said to get back to work. There were no jobs available for a man in the fetal position under his desk crying, which I would have gladly taken. So I came back here. Tonightís show is obviously not a regular show. We looked through the vaults, we found some clips that we thought might make you smile, which is really whatís necessary, I think, right about now. A lot of folks have asked me, "What are you going to do when you get back? What are you going to say?" I mean, what a terrible thing to have to do. I donít see it as a burden at all. I see it as a privilege. I see it as a privilege and everyone here does see it that way. The show in general, we feel like is a privilege. Just even the idea that we can sit in the back of the country and make wise cracks, which is really what we do. We sit in the back and we throw spitballs, but never forgetting the fact that is a luxury in this country that allows us to do that. This is a country that allows for open satire, and I know that sounds basic and it sounds as though it goes without saying - but thatís really what this whole situation is about. Itís the difference between closed and open. Itís the difference between free and burden and we donít take that for granted here by any stretch of the imagination and our show has changed. I donít doubt that. What itís become, I donít know. "Subliminable" is not a punch line anymore. One day it will become that again, and Lord willing, it will become that again because that means we have ridden out the storm.
But the main reason that I wanted to speak tonight is not to tell you what the show is going to be. Not to tell you about all the incredibly brave people that are here in New York and in Washington and around the country. But weíve had an unenduring pain here - an unendurable pain. I wanted to tell you why I grieve, but why I donít despairÖIím sorry. Luckily we can edit this. One of my first memories is of Martin Luther King being shot. I was five and if you wonder if this feeling will passÖWhen I was five, he was shot. Hereís what I remember about it. I was in a school in Trenton. They shut the lights off and we got to sit under our desks and we thought that was really cool and they gave us cottage cheese, which was a cold lunch because there was rioting, but we didnít know that. We just thought that ďMy god. We get to sit under our desks and eat cottage cheese.Ē Thatís what I remember about it. That was a tremendous test of this countryís fabric and this countryís had many tests before that and after that.
The reason I donít despair is because this attack happened. Itís not a dream. But the aftermath of it, the recovery is a dream realized. And that is Martin Luther King's dream. Whatever barriers we've put up are gone even if it's momentary. We're judging people by not the color of their skin but the content of their character. You know, all this talk about "These guys are criminal masterminds. Theyíve gotten together and their extraordinary guileÖand their wit and their skill." It's a lie. Any fool can blow something up. Any fool can destroy. But to see these guys, these firefighters, these policemen and people from all over the country, literally, with buckets rebuilding. That's extraordinary. That's why we've already won. It's light. It's democracy. We've already won. They can't shut that down. They live in chaos and chaosÖit can't sustain itself. It never could. It's too easy and it's too unsatisfying.
The view from my apartment was the World Trade Center and now it's gone. They attacked it. This symbol of American ingenuity and strength and labor and imagination and commerce and it is gone. But you know what the view is now? The Statue of Liberty. The view from the south of Manhattan is now the Statue of Liberty. You can't beat that.
So we're going to take a break and I'm going to stop slobbering on myself and on the desk. Weíre going to get back to this. It's gonna be fun and funny and it's going to be the same as it was and I thank you. We'll be right back.