But seriously folks, stand-ups are back

Thursday, September 5, 2002

Because many stand-up comedians are the town criers of society, there was never any doubt that the events of Sept. 11 would affect what they did and said on the stage.

"I was very actively pursuing those ends of doing comedy in relation to how we're all feeling, what's going on, the politics of it," comedian Marc Maron said during the Montreal International Comedy Festival. Maron was in New York when the towers fell, and he was back in the clubs within a week and a half.

Eddie Brill, a comic who also books stand-ups for CBS' "Late Show with David Letterman," added: "Something like Sept. 11 is something that needs to be talked about. (President George W.) Bush makes a mistake, it needs to be talked about. Social issues need to be talked about."

Others in Montreal admitted nobody was in much of a mood to laugh days after the attacks.

"At the time, there wasn't anything funny. We didn't know what to say, what was appropriate," said Tracy Morgan of NBC's "Saturday Night Live," who lost a friend in the World Trade Center.

That was certainly reflected in attendance at comedy clubs in the early days after 9-11. Bill Brady, a comic and owner of the Barrel of Laughs in Oak Lawn, Ill., said business was "slow" leading up to the weekend (after the attacks), and even then his numbers still weren't "that great."

Some comics eventually dealt with the disaster by making jokes surrounding it. And now, many in the business believe comedy is like it was before 9-11, except that jokes about airlines now surround security mishaps, rather than bad food.

Dom Irrera said comedy's job is to "make people laugh." Not even an event like 9-11 should stop it from doing as such.

"If comedy became serious," he said, "it would be tragedy."