June 26, 2004

9/11 is not a punchline.

For a long time after the events of September 11, 2001, I avoided using the shorthand "9/11" to refer to what had happened. Recently, someone close to me heard me use the term 9/11 and said, "I thought you didn't say that." I admitted that over time, I'd gone to the shorthand. Didn't he use the shorthand? No, in fact, he never did. The profundity of what had happened was still present enough in his mind that he continued to say "September Eleventh."

This conversation came to mind when I read an article in the NYT this morning about a fundraiser that took place this past Thursday, in which "an A-list of Hollywood celebrities shared the stage in the architectural splendor of Disney Hall to raise a show-stopping $5 million for Senator John Kerry and the Democratic National Committee." It looked like Oscar night, the Times writes, with Billy Crystal "cracking wise about movies and politics, money and baseball." But a joke about Bill Clinton "fell flat." The audience, as the Times put it, "had paid too much ($2,000 to $25,000)... to laugh at itself."
Fun was to be had, sure, but at the Republicans' expense.

So Mr. Crystal fared much better when he recalled having met President Bush at Yankee Stadium during the third game of the World Series in 2001 and realizing, "911 is also his SAT scores."

I know brilliant comedians need some leeway as they search for new ways to share the important political insight that Bush is stupid, but 9/11 is not a punchline.

(If you can't remember how that night in Yankee Stadium felt at the time, and perhaps the image that comes to mind is the oft-shown clip from "Fahrenheit 9/11" in which Bush makes a comment about fighting terrorism and then returns to his golf game, read this.)

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