As has become a customary and somewhat soothing ritual in times of tragedy, a number of of late night hosts took turns weighing in on yesterday’s horrific shooting at French satire paper Charlie Hebdo.
Jon Stewart, with his inimitable blend of earnestness and deadpan, weighed in on the events with a moving statement. "I know very few people go into comedy, you know, as an act of courage. Mainly because it shouldn’t have to be that. It shouldn’t be an act of courage. It should be taken as established law. But those guys at Hebdo had it, and they were killed for their … cartoons. A stark reminder that for the most part, the legislators and journalists and institutions that we jab and ridicule are not, in any way, the enemy.” Still, the show went on: "Our goal tonight is not to make sense of this, because there is no sense to be made of. Our goal is to keep going,” he said, before segueing into a segment about Nazi Cows.
Conan O’Brien also opened his show with a heartfelt statement, his voice cracking as he expressed solidarity for the victims of the shooting. "In this country, we take it for granted it’s our right to poke fun at the untouchable or the sacred, but today’s tragedy in Paris reminds us, very viscerally, that it’s a right some people are forced to die for."
Jimmy Kimmel ceded much of the discussion to his guest, Bill Maher, who has been an outspoken critic of Islam in the past. Maher spouted off an angry tirade, saying: "Hundreds of millions of them support an attack like this. They applaud an attack like this. What they say is, ‘We don’t approve of violence, but you know what? When you make fun of the Prophet, all bets are off.” When a skeptical Kimmel rebuffed Maher’s suggestion that politically correct liberals were turning America into “pussy nation," Maher lashed back: “No. I’m asking them to turn toward the truth. I’m the liberal in this debate. I’m for free speech. To be a liberal, you have to stand up for liberal principles. It’s not my fault that the part of the world that is most against liberal principles is the Muslim part of the world.”
Yet not all the late night comics felt the need to weigh in: Per Variety, neither Jimmy Fallon nor David Letterman opted to address the tragedy in the opening segments of their shows.