In between performances from music titans such as Ozzy Osbourne and the O’ Jays during Saturday’s (October 30) “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” “The Daily Show” host Jon Stewart, conservative caricature Stephen Colbert and a cast of funnypeople quipped about everything from Chilean miners to the “Real Housewives of New Jersey.” Despite the deluge of laughs, the event’s overall message could possibly be summed up by the groovy mantra of the O’ Jays feel-good classic “Love Train”: People all over the world, join hands.
Philadelphia collective the Roots kicked off the three-hour live event with a 40-minute set packed with a bunch of the band’s notable jams. Bundled up in a camel coat, Black Thought led the outfit through their jocular Phrenology joint “Thought at Work” and the How I Got Over album’s eponymous cut, in the shadow of The Capitol Building. John Legend joined the Roots crew for “Dear God 2.0″ and the musicians’ covers of soul classics “Hard Times” and “Little Ghetto Boy” from the collaborative album Wake Up! Legend recounted the story behind Bill Withers’ “I Can’t Write Left Handed” before launching into a bluesy, soulful rendition powered by a fiery solo from guitarist Kirk Douglas, who also doubled up on vocal duties when the band played “The Seed 2.0.” The stars closed the set with Curtis Mayfield’s uplifting hit “Move On Up.”
“MythBusters” hosts Adam Savage and Jamie Hyneman engaged the thousands of rally attendees in a few geeky pastimes, including a large-scale version of the Wave and an attempt to create a literal “groundswell” by commanding everyone to jump simultaneously.
But the crowd really went nuts when the event’s figurehead, Jon Stewart, strolled onstage in khakis and a dark blazer, greeted by a sea of waving hands nearly an hour after the event began. Stewart introduced a patriotic rendition of “The Star-Spangled Banner” sung by four U.S. troops, before screaming to the audience, “Are you ready to restore sanity?” After bantering about the racial makeup of rallies — quipping that an event with too many white people is “racist” while an occasion marked by too many people of color means they’re “asking for something” such as equal rights —
Stewart, with the help of some “Daily Show” correspondents jokingly asked the crowd to count off to ensure the racial composition of the rally matched that of the country.
Stephen Colbert, pulled off a dramatic entrance that referenced the odyssey of the trapped Chilean miners, initially speaking to the crowd via camera from his “fear bunker” and ascending from below the stage in a capsule-like contraption.
Other highlights of the day included a speech from Father Guido Sarducci, who attempted to pin down the “right” religion, and a poem recited by actor Sam Waterston. Former Jet Blue flight attendant Steven Slater and “Real Housewives of New Jersey” starlet Teresa Giudice sent video apologies for their famed freak-outs. Comedian Tim Meadows appeared as PK Winsome during a taped skit, urging attendees to splurge on souvenirs, and basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar made an appearance.
Ozzy Osbourne and Yusuf Islam — formerly known as Cat Stevens — surprised fans with performances of their respective hits “Crazy Train” and “Peace Train,” with Colbert supporting the former and Stewart championing the latter. R&B legends the O’ Jays followed-up with their well-worn jam “Love Train.”
Soul great Mavis Staples teamed up with Wilco’s Jeff Tweedy for a tender, acoustic version of their collaboration “You Are Not Alone” from the R&B legend’s latest album.
Rocker Sheryl Crow was accompanied by Kid Rock on the piano for a song that implores listeners to help out, crooning, “I can’t stop the war, shelter homeless, feed the poor … The least that I can do is care.” The performance featured a video-taped verse from embattled MC T.I., who wasn’t able to attend.
Stewart and Colbert also dished out awards, such as the Medal of Reasonableness to citizen Velma Hart for her levelheaded questioning of President Obama and a Medal of Fear to the news organizations who barred their employees for attending the rally.
However, when Stewart signed off at the close of the three-hour event, he maintained that the rally wasn’t just about poking fun. Instead, he urged the thousands of attendees to remember that the hyperbolic images of political extremists and religious nut jobs that clutter the media are not true representations of the American people. The speech was followed by a brief performance from legendary crooner Tony Bennett, who dished out an a cappella version of “America the Beautiful.” The crowd’s chants of “USA” rang in the air before all of the show’s performers hit the stage one final time to join Mavis for the Staples Singers’ 1972 single “I’ll Take You There.
Did you attend Jon Stewart’s “Rally to Restore Sanity And/Or Peace”? Let us know in the comments!