NEW YORK (Reuters) — New York Mayor Rudolph Giuliani opened the new season of NBC's Saturday Night Live by delivering the opening monologue, sending a serious message to America that it's all right to laugh.
With Police Commissioner Bernard Kerik and Fire Commissioner Tom Von Essen at his side, a somber Giuliani began his monologue by saying that since the attack on the World Trade Center many people have called New York a city of heroes.
"Well, these are the heroes," the mayor said, pointing to the firefighters, city police officers and members of the Port Authority police department surrounding him on stage — who were cheered and applauded by the audience.
Firefighters, police, and other rescue personnel have been working day and night at Ground Zero at the site that has left 5,641 people missing in the rubble of the twin towers.
"On September 11th, more lives were lost than on any other single day in America's history, more than Pearl Harbor and more than D-Day. The men, women, and children who were in the World Trade Center came from across the country and from 80 different nations. They were living their lives and pursuing their dreams, and they too are remembered as heroes," Giuliani continued.
"Our hearts are broken, but they are beating, and they are beating stronger than ever.
"New Yorkers are unified. We will not yield to terrorism. We will not let our decisions be made out of fear. We choose to live our lives in freedom," Giuliani concluded.
After Paul Simon sang "The Boxer," the show's executive producer, Lorne Michaels asked the mayor, "Can we be funny?"
"Why start now?" Giuliani joked, and with that gave the familiar opening cry, "Live from New York: It's Saturday Night" to signal the beginning of the 27th season that was hosted by Reese Witherspoon.
In light of the trade center carnage, the usual skits that would have been aimed at President Bush were taboo and instead featured jabs at the Taliban and Osama bin Laden.
Giuliani has appeared on the comedy program a number of times — including an appearance in drag.
At a news conference before the show, he reiterated his appeal for Americans to start going to ballgames, the opera, to Broadway, and to "enjoy ourselves since we are alive and in honor of the people who died, they would want us to enjoy ourselves. They would want us to live life.
"It's OK to laugh," the mayor said. "We have to be able to cry and laugh at the same time because we are going to have funerals and memorial services for a long time."