WASHINGTON—At the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall, no loud mass political chants calling for change or loud vocal condemnations of any particular group or organization were heard. The atypical Oct. 30 rally drew a diverse crowd of thousands of young and old on the eve of Halloween, many in costumes with colorful, clever signs and banners, engaged in a show of comedic political satire, music and entertainment.
The rally featured musical performances by The Roots, John Legend, Kid Rock, Ozzy Osbourne, Sheryl Crow, Yusuf Islam — formerly Cat Stevens, Tony Bennett, and the O’Jays.
John Stewart, comedian and host of The Daily Show and Stephen Colbert, host of The Colbert Report both on Comedy Central, hosted the rally. It began with a satirical benediction from Father Guido Sarducci, a Saturday Night Live character.
Before joining Stewart on stage, Colbert called from offstage, “John, I am trapped in my fear bunker…2,000 feet below the stage in solid bedrock.”
Colbert, finally coaxed into coming up, emerged in a “FENIX” capsule wearing an Evel Knievel cape fashioned out of red, white and blue and shouting “Chi Chi Chi! Le Le Le!” in a parody of the recent emotional rescue of 33 trapped Chilean miners.
The rally, previously described by Stewart as a rally for the moderates, included a sing-along from Stewart and Colbert with a chorus of: “It’s the greatest, strongest country in the world…no one’s more American than me.”
Awards were given for inciting fear and being reasonable. A “medal of reasonableness" was given to professional wrestler Mick Foley. In honor of news organizations that barred reporters from going to the rally, a fear medal was given to a 7-year old girl who said that she was unafraid to be at the rally. Facebook’s Mark Zuckerberg was also awarded a medal for inciting fear in those that fear a lack of privacy.
The political messages in the rally were subtle. Rather than yell, Stewart suggested everyone whisper together, “I am concerned about the direction of the country, and I am open to hearing a variety of ideas."
“We want to hear people say that we can work together and be productive," said Jennifer Brown, a public defender from New York City.
“[I feel that the Rally is] a reaction to the Tea Party and all the negativity, and a continuation of the change that people voted for two years ago,” said Carmen from Maryland.
Many consider the rally to be a response to the Glenn Beck Rally to Restore Honor which took place on the National Mall on August 28, the Anniversary of Martin Luther King Jr.’s historic “I Have a Dream" Speech. The Glenn Beck Rally encouraged Americans to respect their families and communities, raise their sense of morality and welcome religion into the public forum. The Beck Rally was criticized for not drawing a diverse crowd.
“The important thing was to get everyone together and show that we’re here," said Sarah, a college professor and PhD student from Pittsburgh.
Near the end of rally John Stewart said it was time to get serious.
"I know there are boundaries for a comedian pundit talker guy," said Stewart. "I’m really happy you guys are here. Even if none of us are really quite sure why we are here. Some of you see this as a clarion call. Some of you just wanted to see the Air and Space Museum and got royally screwed. A lot of you are here to have a nice time and I hope you did."
"The larger message is to love your country, before your ideas,” said Danielle Whalen, a Maryland public school teacher who mocked Tea Party members by hold an ironic sign, draping a Tea Party flag over her t-shirt with President Obama’s image.
People held signs that read: “Decaffeinate the Tea Party,” and ”I Disagree with you, but I’m Pretty Sure you’re not Hitler,” and “We are Muslim, Please Don’t Burn our Signs” and “Drink the Tea.”
Since the announcement of the joint rally in mid-September, Stewart and Colbert garnered a great deal of media attention for the rally including support from Arianna Huffington of the Huffington Post, who shuttled people to the rally in buses. Oprah Winfrey paid for one of the Daily Show’s audiences to attend the rally.
The rally also inspired over 1,000 meet up groups on Meetup.com, where those that could not attend the rally in Washington, D.C. are able to hold their own rallies around the country.
More photos from the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on Page 2