I can't let the month of October end without having made a single blog post, and conveniently I just got back from Washington DC, having migrated there along with thousands of others for the Rally to Restore Sanity. So for any of you who may have watched the rally on TV (whether Comedy Central or C-SPAN) or the internet and wondered what it was like down on the ground, the answer: a whole lot of fun.
Yes, the sheer quantity of people was pretty insane. The estimate is over 250,000 people. A bunch of people I talked to after the fact said they couldn't really see or hear most of what went on. And that was the case for me some of the time too, especially when I first arrived to find myself right in the middle of a busy passing lane, but once I got settled in front of a Jumbotron (and once they finally turned up the volume), it was all good.
There may have been a lot of people, but everyone very much acted within the spirit of the day. There was no pushing and shoving, even in the 45 minutes it took to exit. Instead everyone was polite, courteous, and friendly. Most of the crowd was happy to chat with each other. While I expected a demographic closer to what I imagined Daily Show's audience to be (young white men), that's not who I saw at the rally. My immediate area had more people my parents' age than my age, equal numbers of men and women, and a good amount of racial diversity as well (though yes, still predominantly white).
As for the show itself, I imagine it may have played like a pretty decent episode of Daily Show or Colbert on TV, but of course it was a whole lot more enjoyable live. All the critics concerned about what the rally means for Jon Stewart's role in society can relax. This was no serious political rally - it was a positive, fun, upbeat, and entertaining gathering of good people to have a good time. Much of the content was completely apolitical, addressing sanity and fear more in the abstract. And when it did get political it was always in the most positive way, appealing everyone to just get along.
The Roots made for a great opening act, immediately getting everyone pumped. Then John Legend came on and took the energy down a notch. I guess if the idea of the rally was to keep everyone mellow, chill, and sane, he did his job, but after a little while it started to feel like nap time. I was surprised the Mythbusters segment even made it to TV. It was a clear "warm up the crowd" ploy that went about 15 minutes too long (though I admit I couldn't hear a lot of it).
So the show really got going once Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert took the stage. Loved Colbert's poem as read by Sam Waterston. Enjoyed all of the sanity and fear awards, especially giving one to a 7 year old girl for having more courage than the news organizations that wouldn't let their employees attend. Loved the Stewart and Colbert song, even if it did mean listening to Stewart uncomfortably try to keep up with Colbert vocally. My favorite lyric: "From gay men who watch football to straight men who watch Glee."
Favorite part of the actual show: the dueling train songs. On one side, Cat Stevens/Yusuf Islam, on the other Ozzy Osborne. Hilarious. I enjoyed most of the other guest appearances as well. Fun to see Father Guido Sarducci, though not sure how many other people my age remember him from 1970's SNL. The Kid Rock/Sheryl Crowe duet was...unexpected. A little "We are the World," but felt appropriate for the occasion. And Tony Bennett's presence made the whole thing seem classier.
And Jon Stewart's moment of sincerity at the end felt exactly right to me. It was what those of us who don't throw a fit every time he steps out of his comedian role for a second want from him. He was rational, he put things in perspective, and was even pretty inspiring. It wasn't a tirade against Fox News but a plea for people to strive to be better than all of the sniping of today's age. Very sane.
Best part overall though: the creative signs people carried. Sure, there were a few people who seemed to miss the message of what the rally was about (one poster showing Republicans with Hitler mustaches seemed to completely miss the point), but the vast majority were in the spirit of the event. I wish I could remember more, but here are some of my favorites:
Hitler is a Nazi
No one is Hitler*
Will Read Tea Party Signs that Need Spellchikking for $5.00
1. Call my mom
2. Buy groceries
3. Equality now
I will hold this sign for 20 minutes max and then I'm done
No more Texas
I Heart Kittens
Bring Back Firefly
Christine O'Donnell turned me into a newt
There's nothing to fear but the Zombie Apocalypse
Any sign referencing The Dude