Sanity/Fear Rally Neither Funny Nor Political, But Shows the Power of Jon Stewart

Analysis: The skits bombed, the music rocked. But you can exhale if you were worried that Stewart was about to become a political activist

Those concerned that Jon Stewart is about to cross the line from comedian to political activist can exhale now.

Stewart’s and Stephen Colbert’s “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” on Washington’s National Mall Saturday was, as promised, not terribly political. Unfortunately, the Twin Towers of Comedy Central didn’t bring the funny, either.

The result was a three-hour live telecast that was neither political comedy nor comical politics but a tepid hybrid of what the boys bring to a boil every night on their respective Monday-through-Thursday shows.

God bless America. Check, please.

The Discovery Channel’s “MythBusters” were a snore, most of the skits bombed, and by the time Stewart got serious with his “keynote address,” the whole shebang was almost over.

See slideshow: Jon Stewart & Stephen Colbert Take Washington.

The music, however, undeniably rocked: the Roots, John Legend, Yusuf Islam (the Artist Formerly Known as Cat Stevens), Ozzy Osbourne, the OJ’s, Kid Rock, Sheryl Crow, Mavis Staples, Jeff Tweedy, Tony Bennett.

Moreover, watching Islam and Ozzy on stage together in a musical “duel” of  “Peace Train” vs. “Crazy Train” was an out-of-body experience.  

In the final analysis, the rally served to demonstrate (again) Stewart’s exploding power and reach as the 21st century incarnation of Jonathan Swift. As politically astute as he is perversely satirical, Stewart’s appeal has extended far beyond his original cult of hip college students, or, as Bill O’Reilly put it, “stoned slackers.” 

Lest we forget, the Leader of the Free World appeared on Stewart’s “Daily Show” on Wednesday, less than a week before the crucial mid-term elections in which his party is expected to get crushed. And the rally itself preceded those same elections by a mere 72 hours.

Also see Hollyblog: Jon Stewart's 'Rally for Sanity Is Totally Self-Serving.

No matter how many times Stewart explains he is the fake anchor of a fake news show, he continues to be ranked in opinion polls as one of the country’s most trusted sources of daily news. “NBC Nightly News” anchor Brian Williams, a frequent guest on the “Daily Show,” says Stewart has gone from “optional to indispensible.”  

Back in our nation’s capital … Despite the diversity on stage, the audience was whiter than a Mormon Tabernacle Choir concert. It was hard to miss the irony as smiling rallygoers swayed to Legend’s rendition of “Little Ghetto Boy.”

Polite and politically correct, they held signs such as “Birthers for Hawaii Statehood” and “I doubt this sign will change your opinion.” No mention of Hitler or Nazis anywhere, nor sightings of automatic weapons.

Smart money says many attendees contribute to National Public Radio, one of several news organizations that received a “Colbert Fear Award” for having banned their employees from attending the rally because it was perceived as a politically partisan event.

Politically partisan? Here was Saturday’s target audience, as posted on the rally’s official website: “We’re looking for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn’t be the only ones that get heard.”

Stewart had no problem being heard Saturday, nor any day. At the peak of his prowess, he now commands the country’s (dare we say world’s?) undivided attention, regardless of political party or network affiliation.

To wit, more than 1,000 journalists applied for press credentials for the rally, including TV news crews from Japan, Switzerland and Russia. (Wonder how you say douche in Russian?)

It was no surprise, then, that Stewart chose to conclude his self-described  “sincere” message by focusing on what he dubbed America’s “24-hour politico pundit panic conflictinator.”

That type of high-decibel, fear-mongering media climate hasn’t caused the country’s problems, he said, “but its existence makes solving them that much harder … If we amplify everything, we hear nothing.”

Most Americans, or “the folks,” as O’Reilly likes to call them, live their lives “as people who are just a little bit late for something they have to do, often something they do not want to do. But they do it.”

“… the truth is, we work together to get things done every damn day. There will always be darkness, and sometimes the light at the end of the tunnel isn’t the Promised Land. Sometimes it’s just New Jersey. But we do it, anyway, together.”

Somewhere, George Carlin is smiling.