9/11 Jokes that worked

I just watched an episode of Girls5Eva and in it, they reveal on September 10, 2001, the girl band released a song called “Quit Flyin’ Planes Straight Into My Heart” and it was…unfortunate.

It got me thinking of 9/11 or 9/11-adjacent jokes that didn’t immediately get “booed off the stage”, so to speak.

I believe 30 Rock showed a fireworks display at Rockefeller Center that when shown from below, looked like the collapse of one of the towers. That was only 5-7 years after 9/11 and my wife and both had our jaws dropped.

What other 9/11 jokes have worked? I’m not talking about jokes like Gilbert Gottfried made, which was intended to “go there” in an offensive way. About 1-2 days after 9/11, he said he missed a flight because it “took a stop at the Empire State building” or something. It was just Gilbert intentionally going there and crossing the line to get a reaction.

I mean jokes that worked as genuinely funny.

The UK series Skins (which was excellent, by the way, or at least the first two seasons were) had a second-season episode in which the characters were in an original musical (written by the school’s drama teacher) about two WTC bankers in love. The chorus of the song? “Then came the day / Osama blew us away.”

I couldn’t believe The Onion published an issue a couple of weeks afterwards. The only headline I remember was something like “Terrorists Surprised To Find No Virgins As Reward”.

eta: Oh, wait, found it, the article references virgins, but it’s better:

They managed a few. “God clarifies that ‘Thou Shalt Not Kill’ thing after 9/11.”

I believe another headline was “American Life turns into a bad Jerry Bruckheimer movie.”

“My name is Shazia Mirza. At least that’s what it says on my pilot’s licence.”

The Onion absolutely nailed their response.

My favorite was their rejected headline: “America Stronger than Ever, Say Quadragon Officials”

There was one Muslim-American comedian who quipped shortly afterwards to an audience: “I went to the airport and TSA asked if I had packed my own bags. I said yes - so they arrested me.”

The first Saturday Night Live episode after 9/11 was introduced by Rudy Giuliani.

He was asked if it was OK to be funny.

Rudy replied, “Why start now?”

As much as he’s a lunatic now, I thought that was good. A step towards returning to normalcy.

My favorite bit from the Onion was “Massive attack on Pentagon makes page 17 news”.

9/11 jokes that worked? I’ve never heard any. I haven’t heard jokes that didn’t work, but that’s probably the crowd I run with.

Okay, that’s pretty good. And the Rudy SNL was good but that’s not really 9/11 is it. I haven’t read the linked Onion piece. Should I?

I’ve always liked this one:

Knock knock
Who’s there?
9/11 who?
But you said you’d never forget.

What I linked is an oral history of writing the issue. I don’t know how interesting it will be for somebody not already interested in the issue. But it does have some screenshots.
All in all, I think they brilliantly balanced catharsis, irony, anger, hopelessness, and so many other emotions that people were feeling.

There was the New Yorker’s “New Yorkistan” cover from December 2001, with the WTC site and environs labeled “Lowrentistan.”

Readers Digest published a joke about OBL arriving in heaven only to get his ass kicked by George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, and several dozen others: he had misunderstood the claim that 72 Virginians would be waiting for him.

I’ve got these, but I don’t know how old they are:

Why was 10 traumatized?

Because it was in the middle of 9/11.

Why is the Tower of Pisa leaning?

Cause it has better reflexes than the twin towers.

Do you know it’s risky to make jokes about 9/11?

Not all of them land.

What’s the difference between 9/11 and a cow?

You don’t milk a cow for two decades.

What do gender and the World Trade Center have in common?

There used to be two, but now it’s an iffy subject.

I did like Jimmy Carr’s joke a couple years ago.

“Remember when Zayne left One Direction? Man, that was my own personal 9/11.”


“I didn’t care about that, either.”

What does WTC stand for?

Need Another Seven Astronauts. Wait a minute…

I do NOT get it.

After the Challenger disaster, the joke going around was, “What does NASA stand for?”