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'Late Show,' 'PI' make emotional return

CBS News anchor Dan Rather clasps hands with "Late Show" host David Letterman Monday during a tearful moment.  

By Lillian Kim
CNN New York Bureau

NEW YORK (CNN) -- Forsaking his usual monologue, forgoing his usual jokes, a subdued David Letterman returned to the air Monday night, toasting New York's residents, police and firefighters, proclaiming, "If you didn't believe it before, you can believe it now: New York City is absolutely the greatest city on earth."

Heeding Mayor Rudolph Giuliani's request for people to go back to their normal activities following Tuesday's terrorist attacks in New York and Washington, the CBS talk show host resumed his "Late Show" duties with an emotional taping before a studio audience.

Sitting behind his desk, Letterman asked for the audience's "indulgence" as he struggled for words. "If we're going to continue to do shows, I need to hear myself talk for a few minutes," he said. "We've lost 5,000 New Yorkers .... and it's terribly sad."

During a break in the taping, Letterman broke down in tears off camera. His first guest, CBS News anchor Dan Rather, also broke down into tears on camera during his discussion with Letterman.

Asked his opinion about when a military response might occur, Rather told Letterman, "I think a strike could come at any second... I'd be surprised if we don't see something very soon."

Rather said those responsible for the attack should worry about the coming response. "We do have a terribly swift sword, and it will be striking very soon."

In Los Angeles, "Politically Incorrect" host Bill Maher said the attack had altered his show as well as the country.

"It's going to be a little more serious. I think that's OK. It's OK with you?" he asked the audience, drawing applause.

The show left one of its four guest chairs empty to honor commentator Barbara Olson. Olson, the wife of U.S. Solicitor General Ted Olson, died in the plane that hit the Pentagon.

Maher asserted that humor would still have a place on his show -- but perhaps that humor would be even more cutting than usual. He declared himself "mad at my own government" for failing to protect Americans, and added that "ridicule, sarcasm, belittlement" could be an outlet.

"Those things make us laugh. It doesn't make us bad people," he said.

A few laughs

Letterman's second guest, Regis Philbin -- host of "Live with Regis and Kelly" and "Who Wants to be a Millionaire" -- told the audience of his son, who works at the Pentagon.

After the planes hit the World Trade Center, "he called me up and we were talking about what had happened, and he said, 'You know, there's some noise here; people are beginning to run, and there's some shouting.' "

Philbin said his son was not hurt in the attack on the Pentagon. "Fortunately, his office is on the other side" of the giant complex.

Philbin helped offer some humor on the Letterman show. At one point, the host asked him, "Do you think Kathie Lee will come back?" referring to Philbin's former talk show co-host, Kathie Lee Gifford.

"There is somebody who could end this in a hurry," Philbin replied. "You want a quick end to this, send Kathie Lee over there."

NBC's "Tonight" show with Jay Leno and "Late Night" with Conan O'Brien return to the air Tuesday night. Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., and musical group Crosby, Stills and Nash were the scheduled guests.

Humor outlets take break

Comedy Central has kept "The Daily Show," a satirical show that runs four times weekly at 11 p.m. EDT, on reruns since the attack. The network decided Monday not to bring the show back live this week, spokesman Tony Fox said.

"When you're talking about a show that is a news parody and the news is so consumed about this tragedy, what's funny about what's unfolding here? Nothing," he told The Associated Press. "As someone at the show said succinctly, irony is dead for the moment."

Comedy Central also removed reruns of its sitcom about the president, "That's My Bush!", from the air and has painstakingly gone through its tapes to make sure it is not showing anything insensitive, Fox said.

The humor magazine The Onion also said it would publish no new material this week, instead putting out a "rerun issue" of light articles that were previously released.

• CBS: 'Late Show with David Letterman'
• ABC: 'Politically Incorrect'
• Comedy Central: 'The Daily Show with Jon Stewart'
• The Onion

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