The comedy world was left reeling by Wednesday's attack at a satirical newspaper's office in Paris, violence that left 12 people dead.
Late-night hosts Conan O’Brien and Jon Stewart discussed the attack on-air Wednesday, delivering solemn speeches about the tragedy and what it means for free speech.
“This story really hits home for anyone who, day in and day out, mocks political, social and religious figures,” O’Brien said. “In this country we just take it for granted that 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 inexplicably forced to die for.
“So it is very important tonight that I express that everyone who works at our comedy show – and believe it or not, this is a comedy show, that’s what we’re trying to do here – all of us are terribly sad for the families of those victims, for the people of France, and for anyone in the world tonight who now has to think twice before making a joke. It’s not the way it’s supposed to be.”
Two heavily armed gunmen – one believed to have ties to al Qaeda – stormed Charlie Hebdo’s offices in retaliation for the publication’s edgy content. Charlie Hebdo had previously come under attack for its portrayal of the prophet Mohammed. The publication regularly skewered other religions and public figures, too.
Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” reflected on the staff’s bravery.
“Our hearts are with the staff of Charlie Hebdo and their families tonight. I know very few people go into comedy 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,” Stewart said.
“For however frustrated or outraged back and forth conversation can become, it’s still back and forth conversation amongst those on … let’s call it team civilization. And this type of violence only clarifies that reality. Of course, of course, our goal tonight … is to not make sense of this, because there is no sense to be made of this. Our goal, as it is always, is to keep going, keep calm and carry on, or whatever version of that saying is in your dorm room.”
The incident was also discussed on “Jimmy Kimmel Live,” in a conversation between Kimmel and his guest, talk show host Bill Maher.