“In 9/11’s wake, millions of Americans felt rallied — or were told they had been, anyhow — by President Bush’s bullhorn address at ground zero. As much as I wanted to be moved, I wasn’t one of them. I got my upsurge of patriotic defiance from another source — the famous 9/11 issue of The Onion, which rose to the almost unimaginable challenge of satirizing the attacks before the rubble stopped smoking. Under the circumstances, making jokes was heroic, which is why the Pulitzer judge who lobbied his colleagues to include The Onion’s mock coverage among 2001’s finalists wasn’t kidding.
Meanwhile, on the first post-attack faux newscast of ‘The Daily Show,’ Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart disconcerted everybody by weeping on camera. His utterly human reaction, far more spontaneous than Dan Rather’s provoking himself to choke up by reciting ‘America the Beautiful’ on David Letterman’s show, had the effect of reminding us that ‘Jon Stewart’ was a persona — one as yet unable to fit authenticity in, something that took Letterman himself years.
Even so, since its finest hour The Onion has often amused me, but its humor seems quaint — locked into a funhouse-mirror formula. And Stewart, who might have been mistaken for a real Sept. 10 kind of guy, has turned into the Bush years’ sharpest jester, a satirist who doubles for his fans as a goofy, imperturbable reality check. Nobody better demonstrates how those post-9/11 reports on the death of irony turned out to be, well, ironic.”
More here from the New York Times.