September 28, 2001 05:43 PM

Never before in the 27-year history of “Saturday Night Live” have the words “Live from New York!” carried more meaning. And so the phrase will be shouted this weekend on the NBC comedy show. But just how many laughs are to be found these days, especially in war-scarred New York? “With us,” the program’s producer, Lorne Michaels, told The New York Times, “more than any show except David Letterman’s, we directly relate to the city.” And the current mood here? “We’ve thought a lot about what we can do that’s appropriate.” Pressed as to whether or not satirizing the president would be appropriate, Michaels replied, “I don’t think it’s likely we’ll do jokes about him, but if we have a good one, we’ll do it.” The show’s guest host this week is Reese Witherspoon, who stepped in to replace Ben Stiller, who withdrew from the show. “She has a 2-year-old,” Michaels said of the actress. “We were asking her to fly from California . . . she’s been great.” Clearly unhappy with Stiller’s backing out, The Times noted, Michaels said of the “Zoolander” star: “I thought he was a New Yorker.” Asked for comment, Stiller said, “It was a really hard decision for me. I don’t know how to be funny right now in the way it takes to do the show — the amount of energy it takes.” He added, “I do feel like a New Yorker . . . I love New York, and I’m proud of New York.”

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