Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert hold a rally at the Washington Mall
By Dahlia Belinsky
Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, hosts of The Daily Show and The Colbert Report, held a rally to Restore Sanity and/or Keep Fear Alive in Washington DC, on Oct. 30.
“It really hit the spot on what it wanted to achieve, which is to satirize the condition of the political arena right now,” Ariel Charney, Chairperson of the Dawson Student Union (DSU) said. “[I think] it was good that they made it non partisan, it’s important to still laugh at what’s going on. Humour can lead to greater discussion then just bashing one side to the next.”
Nearly 250,000 people from Taiwan to Canada to cities all over the United States gathered at the Washington Mall to see the two comedians. Rally-goers carried picket signs that varied from “Just because I don’t agree with my cat doesn’t mean he’s a Nazi,” to completely irrelevant things like, “Bacon: nature’s other candy,” to more playful messages, “Dear America, don’t give up, love Canada.”
The rally opened with a performance by The Roots and John Legend following a surprise guest appearance by Mythbusters, Jaime Hyneman and Adam Savage. They warmed up the crowd with a mock science experiment by having them do the wave.
Finally, after an hour of teasing, Jon Stewart ran on stage with The Daily Show intro music blaring in the background.
Soon after Stephen Colbert rose from the stage in a shuttle similar to the one the Chilean miners were rescued in. He kept his tone light as he asked the crowd to, “bow before us.”
Other musical guests included Jeff Tweedy, Mavis Staples, Sherly Crow, Kid Rock, Ozzy Osbourne, Cat Stevens, and Tony Benett. Rapper T.I. was planned to attend, but due his being in jail he was unable to perform.
Amongst the celebrity guests were Don Novello who gave a benediction in the character of Father Guido Sarducci from Saturday Night Live, Sam Waterston, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and R2-D2.
Stewart and Colbert handed out medals of reasonableness and fear respectively. Stewart gave a medal to Jacob Ison, the man who stopped a group of people from burning a Quran. Colbert was more humorous with his medals when he awarded medals to Anderson Coopers’ tight black T-Shirt and a seven-year old girl.
Stewart ended the rally with a speech. He explained that you cannot call tea partiers racists, just as you cannot say all Muslims are terrorists. “The press is our immune system. If we overreact to everything we can actually get sicker and perhaps eczema,” Stewart explained.
He continued to describe the different people in the country, whether they be Republican or Democrat, “we still work together to things done every damn day,” Stewart said. He ended his speech saying, “your presence was what I wanted.”
“The message at the end had a lot of serious undertones, [Stewart] was sincere,” Elle Marshall, a first semester Arts and Culture student, said. “I heard people in the crowd say [Stewart] should be president. He has a lot of power.”
With so many people at the rally, not everyone was able to see the stage or even the many jumbotrons set up around the mall. People resorted to standing on fences, sitting on top of portable toilets (whether they were in use or not) and even climbing the surrounding trees.
Halfway through the rally most people had settled on a spot to watch or hear from, few were lucky to do both. However, people were still obstinate at getting as close as possible, but police stationed nearly every 10 meters made it difficult for anyone to move the fences.
“Sometimes the [crowds] got intense, but it didn’t spawn any argument,” Matthew Canaran, a McGill University student said.
At one point, strangers began discussing starting a protest by removing the fencing to get closer, when people were shying away due to the police, one girl took charge, “Why is everyone afraid? Isn’t that the reason we’re here?” she said.
“[People] didn’t care that they couldn’t see [the stage],” Adam Abonaccar, first semester Cin/Vid/Com student, said. “[No one] was shoving or pushing. Everyone was chatting with everyone else.”
While the event was a huge success, Washington DC did suffer a few setbacks the day of the event. Due to the outrageous number of people going to the same place all at the same time, certain lines of the metro were already at full capacity by 11 a.m. By 2 p.m. there were an estimated 330,000 people who used the metro so far, according to the Washington Post.
Some metro stations in Maryland were so full people were forced to wait in nearly two-hour long lines to buy tickets.
While the audience was pleased with the rally, and everything ran smoothly the day of, there was still criticism. Glenn Beck compared it to “a high school play, it was not good. This became just another campaign stop,” Beck said according to Entertainment Weekly.
The trip was planned by the DSU and all students were invited to sign up. “Everyone at the DSU watches [their shows] and we wanted to bring students who are politically aware to a historical event,” Charney said. The trip cost $160 total which paid for the bus ride and the hotel. The bus ride was 11 hours both ways.
“It was a miracle we got to go. Without the school, [Perron], and [Charney] it wouldn’t have happened,” Abonaccar said.
There were no upcoming trips mentioned, but “we hope to plan more events like this. It’s great to see the interests of the students and to see them get involved in politics, [both] inside and outside Canada,” Charney said.
For anyone who missed the rally the video is available on http://www.cspan.org/