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The Rally to Restore Sanity: Yawn

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The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was, of all things, boring. From a Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert rally I expected something more. I really didn’t know what – what is a rally to restore sanity anyway? What is a march to keep fear alive? And what in the hell is a rally to do both? I think that nobody knows even now, including Stewart and Colbert. But given that the two of them were hosting the show, the least I expected was great comedy.

Instead we started off with an hour of music and party games. The band – The Roots, joined at some point by John Legend – was good and funky, though not what I had traveled from New York City for. After them the hosts of the TV show Mythbusters took over and played around with having the absolutely giant crowd do the wave, then all jump at the same time – essentially some exercises to demonstrate that the crowd was absolutely giant. Sadly they threw in some kindergarten-level Simon Says-type exercises that just made me sad. They themselves said this was by far the largest audience they had ever had, yet the most creative they could get was to have everyone “laugh politely” or “cry” on cue. Dog obedience school is probably more stimulating.

All that took up a whole hour before we saw hide or hair of either of our hosts. And once Stewart and Colbert finally showed I sort of wished they hadn’t. I wanted to laugh for them instead of feel uncomfortable for them, but they did not make it easy. Colbert was no more than the court jester, a role far beneath both the man and the character. On the Colbert Report he doesn’t just act the clown – he makes incisive commentary, and he doesn’t hesitate to point out when the Right gets something right. At the rally he just cavorted in silly costumes and played the fool. The tone was set when he made his entrance from beneath the stage in a painfully slow reenactment of the Chilean miners’ rescue. Not funny.

Stewart and Colbert tried so hard to so little effect that it was almost a relief when they brought on one musical act after another. I had no idea I was going to a concert, but it felt like there was more music than there was anything else, mostly by people I had never heard of. There was one great comedic musical moment, when Yusuf (formerly known as Cat Stevens, then as Yusuf Islam – and he was the musical representative of sanity) and Ozzy Osbourne (representing fear – somehow once the entire nation has witnessed him shuffling around in his bathrobe it’s hard to make that association) dueled with “Peace Train” and “Crazy Train.”

The funniest bit didn’t involve either Stewart or Colbert. It was Father Guido Sarducci who came to the rescue with a “benediction” that was more like a friendly, one-to-one tiff with God. He badgered God to give us all a sign which religion was right, with the apparent result that none of them is. It had nothing to do with sanity or fear and he didn’t have a band, so it was a refreshing break in addition to being really funny (look it up on YouTube – it must be there by now). Sam Waterston also scored with a dramatic recitation of a poem that Colbert claimed he wrote the night before. After that it was back downhill.

Only at the very end did Jon Stewart really attempt to explain the rally in a speech censuring political extremists and ripping the media a new one for abandoning its critical role of educating the public in a democracy. He got some good lines in and set the stage nicely for the rally. Too late.

Stephen & Jon, I love you guys, but I want my train fare back.

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About Piper Hoffman

  • Alan Kurtz

    Great review, Piper. Thanks, and welcome back to Blogcritics! Please don’t make us wait another two months for your next contribution.

  • Alan Kurtz

    Also, I meant to add a thumbs up to the BC editor(s) who got this posted so quickly. Excellent work!

  • handyguy

    I agree, Piper. The show was disappointingly bland, unlike Stewart’s and Colbert’s TV series. It looked like it might have been fun just to be there, though. A gigantic, friendly crowd on a beautiful fall day. And giving a “Fear Award” to Anderson Cooper’s tight black t-shirt was pretty funny.

  • spike

    “…it felt like there was more music than there was anything else, mostly by people I had never heard of.”


    It is telling that Piper admits she has never heard of most of the following people: The Roots, John Legend, Cat Stevens, Ozzy Osbourne, The O’Jays, Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, Tony Bennett.

  • Jordan Richardson

    I thought the Medal of Fear awarded to Mark Zuckerberg was pretty damn good.

  • Arch Conservative

    The true “Rally to Restore Sanity” will be this Tuesday.

  • Arch ConscienceStain

    AC: The true “Rally to Restore Sanity” will be this Tuesday.

    I prefer to think of Tuesday as the Rally to Substantially Increase Buffoonery.

  • walt milos

    This rally was just as boring and just as stupid as the Glenn Beck rally!

  • Arch Conservative

    Oh I don’t know Walt….this rally had it’s moments. Where else are you going to see our nation’s former green jobs czar, Van Jones, on stage performing MC Hammer’s “Can’t Touch This.”

  • Piper Hoffman

    Alan – thanks! Good to have time post again. And you’re right about our editors: Jon, thanks for the heroic speed.
    Handyguy – I have to give you the t-shirt. That was funny. The camaraderie would have been more fun if we were all there out of a shared ideology, but I think lots of us didn’t know why the hell we were there except that we love Stewart and Colbert. I saw lots of signs about being moderate and felt no camaraderie. Moderate I have never been. Mostly the crowd stood in the way of me and getting on the Metro afterwards.
    Spike – if you picked that name because of the Buffy character, big kudos. Once you list out all the musical acts I have to revise my statement: I have heard of most of them, I just don’t really care about them. I would never travel from NYC to hear any of them. I went for funny political commentary.

  • handyguy

    I also really wish Stewart had broken his no-politics role long enough to urge everyone watching to vote.

  • flawsophy

    I agree .. the comedy was timid … and Stewart played it very very safe as he made sure put all news personalities in the montage .. so as to not damage his career as a comedian …

  • nate

    I agree that at times it was awkward and boring, but in some ways I think that’s very apropos. Sanity and reason doesn’t make good news and/or entertainment and that’s why this rally was necessary.

  • GrayMatters

    Thank goodness I lost 3 hrs of my life sprawled out on my sofa in the comforts of home, and not crammed with thousands on the Mall. Hopefully, all my Right-bashing friends didn’t feel too burned making their journey to Mecca, only to be treated to a below average Summer Camp skit. Stewart: Jump back over that shark to the comedy that got you there…. lose your inner-Oprah.

  • GrayMatters

    If this rally was in any way an attempt to Get The Vote Out on the ailing Left, then it was every bit as effective as Springsteen, Pearl Jam, Dave Matthews, REM & co’s attempt to push Kerry in 04.

    Entertainers need to stick to ENTERTAINING.
    Politicians need to stick to chasing tail & golfing with lobbyists.

  • Joanne Huspek

    I’m so glad I missed the rally, but I’m happy I read your review.

  • Piper Hoffman

    Thanks Joanne!