On Oct. 30, the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, hosted by Comedy Central pundits Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, set up camp on the National Mall in an attempt to poke their big stick into the side of the dead horse that is the American government. With not much else planned, one could argue that the rally was a success.
However, for those who have long enjoyed Stewart and Colbert as comedic pundits, the rally managed to capture the same pomp and circumstance that for so long has strangled not only democracy, but also the attention span of the general public.
Stewart and Colbert had their big stage, their endless stream of head-scratching B-list celebrities, and even though many major news outlets forbade any of their staff from attending, it was talked about by every major news organization leading up to the rally itself. If ever there were a time to have one’s voice be heard it was then, but the moment quickly faded in the three-hour long bonanza.
It certainly was not a good sign when Stewart not only admitted that the overall point of the rally escaped even him, but also acted surprised — even thanking everyone for showing up at all. Humility, a noble trait indeed, has no business when amassing in the nation’s capitol to remind the powers that be who it is exactly they are working for.
There was much talk as to what exactly Stewart and Colbert would put together for this rally, who would show up and what it all would mean. At some point, sadly, it being a political rally was no longer important. Instead they decided to entertain, or at the very least, attempt to. There was an almost thirty-minute performance by The Roots with John Legend, followed by a scripted spat between Ozzy Osbourne and Yusuf Islam. Before it was all over, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow preformed a duet, as did Stewart and Colbert. The chorus roughly went, “America is the greatest, strongest country in the world,” of all things.
The crowd also made headlines with the signs they carried. Many contained subject matter unfit for a respectable newspaper to print, but there were pleas for legalized marijuana, rips at various conservative party members and signs completely unrelated to the rally or politics altogether.
While both Stewart and Colbert have shows primarily rooted in comedy, both of their programs also manage to speak in a certain frankness that many feel is lacking in today’s political landscape. For years now, both have hosted a myriad of guests ranging from current and former presidents of the United States, congressmen and women from both sides of the aisle and even prominent leaders from across the globe. In addition to other staples and figureheads in our country, respected authors and musicians often make appearances to promote their most recent works as well.
So when the frustrations of many Americans made it to the voices on the other side of the television screen, one could not help but feel even the slightest bit of excitement about the rally. Something like this only comes around once in a lifetime, right? This is worth attending, even if that means driving from Phoenix, right? (No. It was not worth driving to, particularly when it could have been watched from the comforts of home to a similar effect.)
Where were all the high-profile guests that normally visit with Stewart and Colbert? Not to take away from the “Mythbusters,” but I was looking forward to a real conversation, not a human wave experiment. Why, after everything leading up to this point did Stewart and Colbert decide to fold so quickly and quietly on the literal steps of the government’s door with such an abysmal and half-hearted display?
The only calm and rational moment of conversation came at the end — and it was brief. To some small degree, the theatrics of the rest of the rally were needed, but at the same time, there is a time and place for jokes and slapstick.
If any saving grace can be mustered out of all of this it would have to be that early estimates show the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear attracted more spectators than Fox News’ Glenn Beck. CBS reportedly hired aerial photography experts to do an independent tally and reported a crowd size of 215,000 to the 87,000 CBS estimated for Beck.
The most enjoyable and encouraging moments of the rally were spent before the rally even began, and immediately after. So many different people from all walks of life made their way to the rally. As the start neared, the body of people grew and grew. By the end, everyone knew that they were not alone in thinking that these times are not so tough to overcome, as echoed by Jon Stewart when he said that “these are hard times, not end times.”
Reach the reviewer at firstname.lastname@example.org