Rescue 9/11

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"After a few weeks, it felt my role was to give people a cathartic laugh," Smigel says, and "any voices insisting on diverting from that role, like the Emmys dressing down, frustrated me." With SNL head writer and Weekend Update co-anchor Tina Fey, he wrote an Emmy sketch that was ditched. Also discarded was a cartoon in which celebrities crowd a soup kitchen on Thanksgiving and wind up fighting with each other when told some should come back on another, less visible day. It featured a Ground Zero reference that felt "too raw," Smigel says.

"Then I had the narrator/snowman idea, and I think what made it work best was that I wasn't parodying a real sanctimonious person, but someone who could symbolize them," he says. "Like I said, it's a delicate subject, especially because I believe that many of these people likely had the best of intentions." Almost everything he's penned since September 11 has dealt with the attacks, including a George W. Bush-Al Gore sketch; a Triumph bit for Late Night in which the dog tries, in vain, to be a "nice New Yorker"; and a forthcoming "X-Presidents" cartoon for SNL.

"It's been a very strange few months," Smigel says. "For me, it's been very hard to be funny about everyday life."

And when the man who invented the phrase "For me to poop on" finds it hard to be funny, maybe everything has changed after all.

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Robert Wilonsky
Contact: Robert Wilonsky