NEW YORK – Take my anthrax — please!
New York and the rest of the country is turning to gallows humor to cope with the city's growing panic in the wake of the World Trade Center collapse and anthrax scare.
"At first, I got mad if anybody joked about what's going on. But now you have to laugh — or you'll cry," said Patty Davidson, 28, an executive secretary from the Manhattan's Upper East Side.
Sensing this, comics have taken off the gloves when it comes to cracking jokes about the terrorist attack and its aftermath — and people seem to love it.
Over the past week, Jay Leno, David Letterman and Howard Stern have all been ranting and raving about it.
"The anthrax scare in Florida might have came from an intern. That later was found just to be a rumor started by Hillary to scare Bill," Leno quipped in a recent monologue.
"The scare is so big that Whitney Houston will no longer open envelopes containing white powder," he continued.
The Internet is also packed with disaster jokes — like the one about the guy who goes in for a checkup and is told he's got anthrax.
"I'm going to put you in the hospital and on a diet of pancakes," the doctor says. "Why pancakes?" his patient asks.
"Because that's only thing we could figure out to slide under your door."
Caroline Hirsch, owner of Caroline's Comedy Club on Broadway, said audiences are ready to laugh again — and Usama bin Laden has become the butt of jokes by many of her performers.
"It's very healing. Early on, people were like, 'Am I entitled to laugh?' Now they are saying, 'We need to,'" said Hirsch, whose club features Caroline Rhea and Paul Mooney this weekend.
Christine Downey, 32, an insurance exec, said she's been going to the "10:17 Comedy Night" at the Gershwin Hotel on Saturday nights to cheer up.
"I've never really been the 'comedy-club type.' But I went a few weeks ago because I was really down and laughed my head off. Now I'm hooked," she said.
Even David Letterman believes the city is returning to its old self through laughter.
"People are getting back to normal. Why, just today the mayor said it was OK to give people the finger again," Letterman quipped on his CBS show.