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Read an oral history of SNL's post-9/11 episode

  • Saturday Night Live faced the ultimate test on Sept. 29, 2001, just 18 days after the 9/11 attacks, when it put on a comedy show with Reese Witherspoon as host, Alicia Keys as musical guest and then-New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani flanked by firefighters and police officers telling Lorne Michaels it was okay to laugh again, followed by Paul Simon performing "The Boxer." "So many of the guys who were the regular security guys at SNL, many if not all of them were off-duty firemen who had been down there, and their weekend job was doing security for SNL," recalled then-head writer and "Weekend Update" co-anchor Tina Fey. "So it was very tender emotionally. People that we knew were coming right from Fresh Kills (the Staten Island landfill where human remains and personal effects were taken) to work the weekend on the show. They were saying they were doing searches for remains and then coming that same night to come to work." Lorne Michaels added: "There were lots of people saying, 'I don’t think you can go on.' We’ve faced that many times before, but you just have to find a way to do it. I knew it was very, very important that we show up." Giuliani recalled: "I don’t remember if it was Lorne or Brad Grey who called me and actually wanted to know if I thought it was OK to go ahead with the show… I said not only did I think it was OK to go ahead with the show, I said sooner rather than later. People have to get back into learning how to laugh and cry on the same day, because they’re going to be doing (it) for a long time."

    TOPICS: Saturday Night Live, NBC, Lorne Michaels, Rudy Giuliani, Tina Fey, 9/11