I watched most of the rally on TV today (I turned in in the middle of the Mythbuster guys doing their shtick, before Stewart came out), and, overall, I guess my first impression was that I was underwhelmed.
There really wasn’t anything I’ll be talking about at work – a , “did you see when XX did YY at the rally this weekend? It was crazy/awesome/whatever!”
I guess the reasons that this was – for the most part – just a “meh” for me are the following observations:
- While there was a lot of talk before the rally – and Stewart wasn’t biting – about what the rally would be about, I just watched the whole thing and I’m still not sure what the meaning of it was. It seemed just like the entertainment colleges have for the freshman on the last Friday of orientation week before the rest of the school comes back. Sure, fun, some good music, funny sketches, but…in no way did it match any of the hype (and I wasn’t even paying much attention to this aspect of the run-up-to-the rally).
- While the Sanity vs. Fear meme had its moments (the medals for each were nice counterpoints), overall, this competition marred some otherwise good performances (Cat Stevens [Yusef Islam]/Ozzie Osborne) and made – for me – poor theatre. And – since Colbert was in character (as he should be) it was a little tougher to clearly spell out how the politics of fear (one example: negative political ads) was shown for what it was (the Nixon quotation was good, however). To be fair, this wasn’t a political rally (see below).
- I think both Stewart and Colbert do best in small venues (stand-up) or controlled areas (i.e. each’s show). Ditto for the music – while good and diverse, when you’re playing in front of over 100k+ people stretching from the Capitol’s Reflecting Pool to the Washington Monument, you have to rock. Springsteen/U2 should have been there. And I like Jeff Tweedy, Sheryl Crow and other musical guests who performed.
All in all a good time, but little that was overtly remarkable. Plethora of guests from all over the place, however. Wow. Like a clown car where people kept spilling out. But not clowns. Father Guido Sarducci, Sam Waterston, Kareem Abdul Jabbar, Tony Bennett, R2-D2…and they keep coming.
Yet there were a bunch of back-story parts/themes of the rally that were subtle yet compelling. More cerebral/memorable than visceral.
- Significantly, this really was in no way a political rally, which was one concern of the organizations, including NPR, which forbade employees from going to this event (*sigh*). (Honestly, I sometimes wonder if Stewart and, to a lesser degree, Colbert and Bill Maher are forming a 5th Estate. I joke, but not completely.) I don’t think there was a single call from any performer saying anything about voting/upcoming election. Remarkable.
- At the very end, Stewart got a bit more serious, and he commented that basically the only places where things are truly partisan are in the Capitol (he pointed over his shoulder at the building behind him) and on the cable news networks. He said the rest of us, essentially, play well with others and are not all-or-nothing. That was a good takeaway. And I think he’s right.
- Overall, Stewart’s final monologue, and the light (to not-so-light) skewering of the media over the course of the rally, almost saved it for me. Those are the moments I’ll remember: At the end when Stewart spoke honestly and frankly, and just as a person, not a personality; and when the (admittedly cherry-picked) video montages of our cable news folks just left me feeling like I needed a shower (or a cyanide capsule…).
- Also, the crowd – large, not sure what they were expecting/what they got – was a generous mix of America. As the cameras panned around during the show, mainly young whites, but a lot of older folks, minorities and kids. And they seemed to having fun. So that’s a plus.
That’s my take – the good and the bad – and remember, I saw this on TV; I wasn’t in the Mall watching it live.
It’ll be interesting to see what others say.
Jeff Jarvis liked it. Money quote (here we agree):
Stewart’s close was pitch-perfect, presenting optimism, perspective, honesty, and humor in exact proportion.
He brilliantly separated himself from media, politics, and government, setting him closer to us, the people. In other circumstances, that might sound like a populist’s positioning: Stewart as Evita (don’t laugh for me, New Jersey). But that’s why the apolitical nature of the event matters: He wasn’t selling an agenda or buying power. He was leading and inspiring. He was recognizing and supporting the best in us.
Stewart was raising a standard for how our alleged leaders should respect us so we could respect them in return.
First crowd estimate via HuffingtonPost.com:
CBS estimates that 215,000 people attended the Rally to Restore Sanity. That’s nearly two-and-a-half times the number estimated to have shown up for Glenn Beck’s “Restoring Honor” rally in August.