Thanks to Comedy Central, we watched and enjoyed The Rally to Restore Sanity this afternoon. There was a huge turnout at the Washington Mall. The Daily Show’s John Stewart said (tongue in cheek) there were two million attendees, Comedy Central estimated 250,000; another media source said 150,000. The crowd looked youngish and pretty white from the TV camera scans. Fox News claimed there were too many people and nobody could see or hear anything. Stephen Colbert had originally announced a counter-rally to Keep Fear Alive, but the two supposed antagonists joined forces and presented a combined rally to “Restore Sanity and/or Fear.” There was plenty of both, plus a lot of good music. In fact, the show started off with a thirty-minute mini-concert by the Philadelphia hip hop group The Roots, joined by six-time Grammy winner John Legend, and they got the crowd totally energized. A couple of guys called the Mythbusters had 150,000 or so people doing the wave and cackling like mad scientists. John Stewart entered, welcomed the crowd, and introduced “The Four Troops,” a military quartet who sang the National Anthem. Father Guido Sarducci of SNL fame gave the benediction with his usual comic brilliance, and Sam Waterston read a poem about fears. A lot of musical acts were mixed in (e.g., Yusuf Islam, Ozzy Osbourne, the O’Jays, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crowe), and even a patriotic duet by Stewart and Colbert themselves (John Stewart was admittedly awful). Stephen Colbert had entered in the midst of all the hoopla from his Bunker of Fear, 2000 feet underground, and he and John Stewart engaged in a mock competition, with Stewart awarding medals for rationality (e.g., to the gracious baseball pitcher whose perfect no-hit game was ruined by an umpire’s wrong call) and Stephen Colbert’s Fear Awards (e.g., to NPR, the NY Times, Washington Post, and CBS for banning their employees from attending the rally) (yes, really true). Also to Mark Zuckerberg, Facebook creator, who didn’t attend to receive his medal because “he values his privacy more than yours.” Stewart and Colbert then engaged in a debate, highlighted by the appearance of Kareem Abdul-Jabar who disrupted Colbert’s fear of all Muslims. When Colbert presented a video montage of TV news clips illustrating nonstop hatred from the right and the left, it appeared that Fear was about to win out. However, the Daily Show’s John Oliver appeared in a Peter Pan costume and led the crowd in cheering for John Stewart and chanting, whereupon Stephen Colbert and his gigantic puppet replica of himself melted into the stage and disappeared, just like the Wicked Witch of the West. John Stewart wound up with what he described as a moment of sincerity, thanking the crowd and the staff, and making a strong case that the press, particularly cable TV and politicians, have been manufacturing a false image of America as a “country torn by polarizing hate.” Stewart argued that the American people work together every day to solve problems of all sorts, suggesting that “cable TV is the only place we don’t.” There’s always darkness, he noted, but we have to be able to work together. Tony Bennett came out and sang “America the Beautiful,” and we all had a tear in our eyes. It was a meaningful and fun event which hopefully generated some voter enthusiasm on the eve of midterm elections. Stephen Colbert, as usual, was hilarious. It was billed as nonpartisan, though it wouldn’t be difficult to read in a critique of Fox News, the Tea Party, and various right-wing politicians. However, there was virtually no explicit mention of political parties, particular media sources or politicians, or given political issues. The emphasis really was on restoring sanity. Though Sanity won out on stage, it’s harder to determine what’s happening in real life. I guess we’ll learn more on Tuesday.
-Donna D (10-31): very good david. i'm voting for sanity on tuesday.... donna