LOS ANGELES -- A tearful Jon Stewart apologized
for another "overwrought speech of a shaken host" as Comedy Central's
news parody "The Daily Show" returned to programming Thursday
"We've had an unendurable pain, and I wanted
to tell you why I grieve but why I don't despair," the comedian
said, then stopped as he was overcome by emotion Thursday.
Stewart joined David Letterman, Jay Leno and
other late-night hosts who opened their first shows since the
Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with somber speeches.
"Are you OK?" Stewart asked his audience. Many
people had wondered how he would handle his show now, he said,
then added: "I don't see it as a burden. I see it as a privilege."
He praised the open American society that allows
"That really is what the whole situation is
about. It's the difference between closed and open. The difference
between free and burdened."
But jokes about President Bush will be off limits
for now, Stewart indicated.
"'Subliminable' is not a punch line anymore,"
he said, referring to the once-mocked Bush mispronunciation. "One
day it will become that again ... Lord willing, because it will
mean we've ridden out the storm."
The rest of the show was given over to past
clips, including one of Stewart and ABC News anchor Peter Jennings
hanging out at a political convention. Stewart teased himself
at one point for having "a good cry."
"The Daily Show," which runs four times weekly
at 11 p.m. EDT, had been in reruns since the attacks. "Irony is
dead for the moment," Comedy Central spokesman Tony Fox said of
The serious tone adopted by Leno's "Tonight"
and Letterman's "Late Show" on their return earlier this week
gave way within a day to comedy. Letterman had his list - "The
top 10 things that almost rhyme with hat" - and Leno had his monologue
But they, like Stewart, had openly struggled
with reconciling the gulf between their jobs as comedians and
the national tragedy.
In his sometimes rambling speech, Stewart lauded
police and firefighters as heroes, said the tragedy had helped
remove barriers between Americans and recalled the slaying of
the Rev. Martin Luther King Jr. as another great test of the country's
Stewart also noted the view he once had from
his New York apartment: the World Trade Center.
"That symbol of American ingenuity and strength
and labor and imagination and commerce is gone. You know what
that view is now? The Statue of Liberty."
The show that started with tears ended with
a puppy, which Stewart held up to the camera as a gesture of comfort.