Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11 is a fascinating documentary on humor after the Twin Towers fell. It addresses not only the elephant in the room, can you joke about 9/11, but also what happened to comedy and comics after September 11th. It features a who’s who of comedy too numerous to list.
The first part, comedy immediately after 9/11 is interesting and uses some archive footage to bring the viewer back to the audience and comics trying to deal with what is appropriate. Tough Letterman, Jon Stewart, and The Onion started the healing process, it seems it was Gilbert Gottfried who burst the abscess during a Roast for Hugh Hefner. He was successful because he was able to recover from a very cold reception to a, ironically enough, joke about Donald Trump “doing so much damage to the New York City skyline he should be called the 20th high jacker”. This recovery, if you must know, involves a telling of The Aristocrats.
What makes Too Soon: Comedy after 9/11 a must see documentary however is how it moves beyond how comics dealt with the terrorist attack to how comedy in its various forms (comics, humor based TV shows, etc) dealt with the aftershocks. These aftershocks include the war on Iraq for non-existent weapons of mass destruction, the kowtowing of mainstream media to the story the White House was putting out, ye olde “you can’t say that”, and the racist repercussions on anyone looking Arabic. There is also a great section featuring comics of Arabic origin.
I strongly disagree with the penultimate section on how comedy has changed since 9/11 and become more real. In fact it has generally become safer, self-centered, and boring.
The documentary ends appropriately with the work Jon Stewart did to get the first responders who worked on the Twin Towers site appropriate medical and financial compensation after years of them being denied anything by the same government that called them heroes.
Too Soon: Comedy after 9/11 is a must see.
Too Soon: Comedy After 9/11
A documentary by Julie Seabaugh
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