9/11 Tribute: Mayor Rudy Giuliani & Lorne Michaels

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9/11 Tribute: Mayor Rudy Giuliani & Lorne Michaels

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Paul Simon: 9/11 Tribute: Mayor Rudy Giuliani & Lorne Michaels

by Saturday Night Live 8:04 mins

Paul Simon: 9/11 Tribute: Mayor Rudy Giuliani & Lorne Michaels

by Saturday Night Live 8:04 mins

What does a comedy show do in the wake of a tragedy? "Saturday Night Live" had just such a challenge coming back on the air after the September 11 attacks in 2001. Of course, part of recovering from a horrific event is being able to laugh again. In that light, the first show of Season 27, which aired as scheduled on September 29, opened with New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani surrounded by two dozen members of the police and fire departments. Introducing the first responders as "heroes," the mayor said, "Our hearts are broken, but they are beating, and they are beating stronger than ever." Lorne Michaels, the executive producer of the show, thanked Giuliani for coming on. Then he asked, "Can we be funny?" Giuliani shot back, "Why start now?" Asked about that line 10 years later in 2011, Lorne Michaels told New York magazine that the ice-breaking moment from Giuliani was key to moving forward for a show about "hard laughs." "He was the voice of the city, and he needed to give us permission." Paul Simon's live performance of "The Boxer" captivated viewers in the studio, and at home. The show's host, Reese Witherspoon, leveled with the audience during her opening monologue: "I am so happy and honored to be here tonight. We've never done a show under these circumstances so we're still finding our way. But I promise you we're gonna give it everything we've got." In the same New York magazine interview, Witherspoon recalled, "Lorne brought me into his office, and he was like, 'People have to laugh. There's such an importance in what we do.' It was a huge career lesson." Michaels also asked her to curse in the opening monologue — and she does. Sort of. "Because what happened to our country was profane," Witherspoon explained, "And he felt it deserved profanity."

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