Jon Stewart dropped the jokes Wednesday night when discussing the shooting that left 12 people dead at French satire paper Charlie Hebdo, adopting the solemn demeanor he had to bring out way, way too often in 2014.

Stewart, who perhaps knows a thing or two about extreme reactions to comedy—his directorial debut, Rosewater, is about Iran's interrogation and imprisonment of journalist Maziar Bahari after Bahari talked to American "spy" Jason Jones for the Daily Show—argued that comedy shouldn't have to be an act of courage, "it should be taken as established law."

But the cartoonists at Charlie Hebdo had courage, and Stewart's takeaway from their deaths is that the back-and-forth between comedians like him and the powerful people and institutions they criticize isn't a war—it's just civilization doing its job. The Charlie Hebdo attack was something else entirely.

"Our goal tonight is not to make sense of this, because there is no sense to be made of this," he said, "Our goal, as always, is to keep going."

[h/t Comedy Central]