A tearful Jon Stewart apologized for another "overwrought speech of a shaken host" as Comedy Central's news parody The Daily Show returned to television.

"We've had an unendurable pain, and I wanted to tell you why I grieve but why I don't despair," the comedian said, then stopped as he was overcome by emotion Thursday.

Stewart joined David Letterman, Jay Leno and other late-night hosts who opened their first shows since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks with somber speeches.

"Are you OK?" Stewart asked his audience. Many people had wondered how he would handle his show now, he said, then added: "I don't see it as a burden. I see it as a privilege."

He praised the open American society that allows for satire.

"That really is what the whole situation is about. It's the difference between closed and open. The difference between free and burdened."

But jokes about President Bush will be off limits for now, Stewart indicated.

"'Subliminable' is not a punch line anymore," he said, referring to the once-mocked Bush mispronunciation. "One day it will become that again ... Lord willing, because it will mean we've ridden out the storm."