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TV Comedians: With Breaking Bin Laden News, It's Not Just Funny Business
May 3, 2011  | By David Bianculli

After watching traditional news coverage of Osama bin Laden's death at the hands of U.S. forces Sunday night and Monday morning, perhaps you tuned to "lighter fare" for a few laughs. But if you wound up watching, say, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, David Letterman and Craig Ferguson, you got a lot more, and a lot more thoughtful perspective, than you may have been expecting...


On Monday's Late Show with David Letterman on CBS, the host spent the bulk of the show interviewing Brian Williams, the NBC anchor whose conversation -- all about the raid on Bin Laden's Pakistan urban compound -- answered many questions, and addressed many facets, that many mainstream news outlets omitted.

Williams even showed a very human and subjective side, using the term "pissed" when describing his feelings upon learning that the Al Qaeda leader, instead of toughing it out in some remote cave hideaway, was living a life surrounded by creature comforts in a city in Pakistan. The interview -- a true conversation, really -- was fascinating. It allowed both men -- one a newsman, the other an entertainer -- to shine. And, often, it allowed them to switch roles. Letterman asked some probing questions, and Williams, in the midst of it all, got off some very funny laugh lines.


On Monday's The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, the host, like the show, was flawless. A half-dozen different titles were given for this special report about Bin Laden, updated and swapped out to get more laughs. Nothing made me laugh more, though, than Stewart's adopting his mob accent to demonstrate that Abbottabad, where Bin Laden was located and killed, sounded like a place New Yorkers would have made up.

Stewart also delighted in the fact that Obama delivered the news of the raid, in prime time, right in the middle of the boardroom session of NBC's Celebrity Apprentice, pre-empting his very vocal critic Donald Trump. The correspondents were just as sharp (John Oliver couldn't stop talking about the Royal Wedding), and the entire show was SO smart, it delighted, amused, amazed and informed me in equal measure.

And when Stewart's Comedy Central co-hort, Stephen Colbert, launched into his The Colbert Report, he led the audience in a chant of "USA! USA!" that could have been satirical... but didn't seem to be.

"Seth Meyers did a great job at the [White House] Correspondents' dinner," Colbert said at the show's open. "But I gotta say, this weekend, Barack Obama really killed." And he kept going from there.


"Oh, folks," Colbert said, talking about his own enthusiasm, "I am as giddy as a schoolgirl who just shot bin Laden in the eye. In the eye!"

Then he added, only a bit sheepishly, "I hope I am never again this happy over someone's death."

I was happy, though, when Colbert reached into the clip drawer to show the Munchkins talking about the Wicked Witch being "most sincerely dead."

And again, when he showed a clip from the White House Correspondents' dinner, and Meyers making a joke about bin Laden hiding out by hosting a daily show on C-SPAN -- and President Obama laughing at the joke, knowing the secret mission that would be launched the very next day.


And finally, over on The Late Late Show with Craig Ferguson, that show's host waited until the right time in his monologue to deliver the same line he's delivered nightly for years: "It's a great day for America."

But Monday night, he let it hang there, and resonate, until you realized: On this day, that phrase had more meaning, and a more timely correlation, than ever before.

All four shows made me laugh. But all four shows also made me think.




Mac said:

Who'da thought the jokes would be so quick, so good and overtaking all other parts of these shows. Missed them all, due to sleep schedule, but am catching up, via news reports, this wonderful blog and video on the net. Fallon's Trump announcement gets high praise from reviewers but it seems like a single joke beaten to death. Ferguson's monlogue is available over at cbs.com.Yes, the opening line and crowd reaction is great, but I don't think Craig will hit his stride on this event till a day or two from now. Read Conan's great take on the Trump show:"How do we kill Bin Laden next Sunday?"; possibly the best joke on Trump.
And speaking about Trump: If the event hadn't happened, would there been more focus Monday on Trump at the Sat. Press Corp. Dinner? Evidently,Trump being the cheapskate, didn't bring his sense of humor as carry on luggage when making the trip to D.C. He is stoic throughout as Seth Meyers digs (really mean spirited) into Trump. Donald, everyone was laughing at you, not with you. Even those at the table looked uncomfortable. And Trump's expression actually made Meyers predictable comments that much better as they got through to the intended victim. And now Trump gave congrats to Obama and the persons responsible for bringing down Bin Laden but anything the Trumpster says, true or not, must be taken with suspicion. He can't laugh at himself.

Comment posted on May 3, 2011 12:35 PM

Sarah said:

Since 9/11 happened I have to admit I have been taking my queues from late night, espcially Jon Stewart. When he cried, I cried. When he got angry, I got angry. And when I heard the news my first thought was I can't wait for Jon's reaction. I watched and didn't stop laughing until Stephen Colbert signed off. I didn't catch Lettermen and will catch up with Ferguson but I was able to see Jimmy Fallon and his dead on impression of Trump (who really does need to learn to laugh at himself), stating that because the Pres. interrupted Celebrity Apprentice that he, Trump, was the one who actually killed Bin laden. It was truly a great night for comedy. :)

Comment posted on May 3, 2011 2:42 PM

Rich said:

it certainly nice to see Stewart savoring this day as I still remember hearing a candid phone interview that he did with Howard Stern mere days after 9-11 (in 2001) where his normal voice pattern was clearly shaken by emotion as he tried to be upbeat and engaging and he just dropped the "Funny man" stance, expressed his sorrow and how his mission on "The Daily Show" was to see the day he could live out yesterday's broadcast.

As s media voyeur I am curious what the reaction is of all the 'Shallow' or Narcissistic (some might say) Hollywood types that are always screaming "War, killing, & Military" are Never the answer to anything.

Unlike in Japan, NOW would be a time for some of Gilbert Gotfrieds 'blue' & ribald jokes. How will "South Park" & "SNL" mock the death of the most hated terrorist thug in modern times? We shall soon find out.


Comment posted on May 3, 2011 3:53 PM

Eileen said:

Brian Williams and David Letterman were great together. And kudos to Dave for questioning whether he should have Trump on his show after the racist slant of the whole "Birther" insanity. In the interim, of course, Trump has decided not to be a guest; who'll miss him anyway.

I agree totally with Mac relative to Mr. Donald Chump. And looking at President Obama during the correspondents dinner, it's amazing to now know what this man had on his plate, and yet he could not only joke but take the jokes. Incredible grace under fire. It made the whole past week of birth certificate crazy seem all the more crazy. Here was the President of the US with so much at stake having to placate a bunch of loonies. Mission accomplished, President Obama, mission accomplished...

Comment posted on May 3, 2011 5:17 PM
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