Jon Stewart's 'sanity rally' blends laughs and activism

Some 60,000 attend event at National Mall in Washington; organizers insist rally not political but Democrats hope it sparks voter enthusiasm.

Stewart 311 (photo credit: Associated Press)
Stewart 311
(photo credit: Associated Press)
WASHINGTON – Tens of thousands of Comedy Central fans took to the National Mall on Saturday in search of some peace, love and understanding under the guidance of Daily Show host Jon Stewart.
At least two people found it.
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Surrounded by masses holding placards saying, “The end is not for a while” and “Everyone has a right to their own opinion but not their own spelling,” Sheffy Gordon, a 34-year-old born in Haifa, whipped out his own sign: “Aimee will you marry me?” After his girlfriend accepted the proffered ring, he attached an addendum declaring, “She said yes” to applause and cheers from the crowd packed around them.
“We’re big Daily Show fans and our first date was here for the Obama inauguration,” he explained of the choice to pop the question at the rally.
Plus, he added, “I wanted to do it when we were surrounded by friends so she couldn’t say no.”
It wasn’t just friends he found around him. The crowd packed the mall so tightly it was even hard to see the jumbotrons projecting the action on the stage.
Stewart kept the tone light and positive, even at his most serious when he concluded by rejecting the image of polarization among the American public depicted by the media.
“We work together to get things done every day,” he told the crowd, and then referencing the looming Capitol behind him continued, “The only place we don’t is here or on cable TV.”
Several Democratic and left-of-center groups used the rally, which comes just three days before Tuesday’s midterm elections, to bus in supporters and try to energize a constituency seen as less enthusiastic about the upcoming vote than conservatives.
But Stewart, who is on the left on most issues, steered clear of partisan politics. He did, however, use humor to touch on politically sensitive topics with the message of tolerance and shared values between diverse groups.
He lampooned those who would call adherents of the politically conservative Tea Party “racist” – as well as those who would use the label against Rick Sanchez, the CNN host who was fired after telling a radio show that Jon Stewart and other Jews run the media.
“It’s an insult not only to those people, but the racists themselves,” Stewart quipped.
Stewart began the rally with the traditional invocation, but in this case the appointed Catholic priest stand-in began by asking God to give a sign as to which religion was really right. As he recited the various faiths, the audience offered spattered cheers. Judaism received one of the loudest responses.
After mentioning Judaism and Islam, the priest wondered why Jews and Muslims don’t get along better given their similar dietary habits.
“I don’t eat pork, you don’t eat pork – let’s build on that.”
Throughout the three-hour event, Stewart shared the stage with his supposed arch-rival Steven Colbert, and humor reigned. Colbert hosts The Colbert Report, a mock conservative talk show that appears on Comedy Central after the Daily Show, and on Saturday joined Stewart with a “March to Keep Fear Alive.”
The two men welcomed to the stage other famous actors, comedians and singers, including Cat Stevens, a convert to Islam who now uses the name Yousef Islam, and heavy metal icon Ozzy Osbourne. Islam began by [singing] his song “Peace Train,” which Colbert interrupted as being too optimistic.
He brought in Osbourne, who began to belt out “Crazy Train.”
In the end, they compromised with a rendition of “Love Train” by the OJays.
But it was “You’re Not Alone” that was being played when Gordon asked for Aimee’s hand.
“This can be our song,” he told her.