My own familiarity with Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert began with my parents continuous viewing throughout my young adulthood and eventually became my only source for news until college. Most recently I have begun watching the television show again with my boyfriend who is enamored with these individuals, so we wrote this article together and I really couldn’t do it without him. When Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert announced and then later unified their Rally to Restore Sanity/ Keep Fear Alive, there were many different ideas about what could take place on the Mall in Washington, DC on October 30th. Would this be a free for all goof off that would fail to make any statements at all? Would this be Stewart and Colbert’s chance to wield their political influence and take a stand with a conventional political rally? Is this just their way to combat Glenn Beck’s Restoring Honor Rally? Well, as it turns out all were partially true.
Thousands of people from across the globe descended on The National Mall, breaking public transit records and clogging up trains, estimations are around 250,000 people. Those lucky enough to get there early enough were privileged to get within view of the 6 jumbo screen set up along the mall, if not of the main stage. Shoulder to shoulders families, college students and even senior citizens packed together with signs in hand and costumes in tow. Unlike the common rhetoric these days of “Obama the Nazi”, the signs were reminiscent of the overall message of the rally with signs stating, “Thank God for Mexican Food”, and even drawings in other languages in particular in American Sign Language ‘Enough Yelling.’
The rally was kicked off in style with The Roots, John Legend and Mos Def rocking the stage with some of their hits before the Mythbusters came on stage to warm up the crowd with clapping, laughing, and even getting a tsunami-esque wave flowing from the capital building to the Washington Monument. It was then time for the arrival of the hosts, Stewart casually strolling on stage and Colbert emerging from his “fear bunker” under the stage from a replica of the Chilean Miners capsule. From there the show proceeded at a thunderous pace, full of comedy and shocking guest appearance.
It is safe to say the biggest shock of the day occurred when Stewart invited Yusuf Islam (formerly Cat Stevens) on stage to sing his hit “Peace Train”. About half way through the song Colbert interrupted insisting that he could not get on that train, he needed another train. Right then an all too familiar scream of “All Aboard” came shooting through the sound system. With that brief clip the crowd, well at least the post teen set, were well aware of what train was pulling into the station. Ozzy Ozzbourne stepped on stage and backed by the Roots took to singing his hit “Crazy Train”. Only this time it was Stewart who cut this train off mid steam. After bickering back and forth about which train to ride, and at one point both Ozzie and Yusuf played their songs concurrently, another audio treat came from off stage, “People all over the world”. At which point both the host and delighted crowd savored the O’Jay’s classic hit “Love Train.”
The rally did not merely entertain the crowds with its satirical hyjinx, show stopping performances, and A-D list celebrities, from Kareem Abdul Jabbar to Tony Bennett; it also for a brief instance dropped the comedy routine and was able to evoke the greater idea of many individuals who feel lost in the mundane rhetoric. Host Jon Stewart in a climax of the whole day addressed the crowd with an uncommon stoic nature. Stewart took dead aim at what he believes to be the problem in America, the polarization and extremism of a country perpetrated by the news media. His words resonated with the crowd as he drove his point home stating, “These are hard times, not end times”, which erupted the mass of converts in furious applause of agreement. Overall Stewart’s point, and the point of the rally was well evident, in a time where the country is struggling we need to band together as one instead of continually attacking one another and polarizing the nation. A sign that Stewart had on his show a few weeks ago sums it all up pretty conclusively “I disagree with you, but I’m pretty sure you’re not Hitler.”
Photography and Article by Rachel Carr and Kevin King
Graphics by Feesh
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