Signs Of 'Sanity' In Washington

  • People assembled by the tens of thousands Saturday on the National Mall for a "sanity" rally blending laughs, activism and a call to civility from two improbable maestros of moderation, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
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    People assembled by the tens of thousands Saturday on the National Mall for a "sanity" rally blending laughs, activism and a call to civility from two improbable maestros of moderation, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert address the thousands that gathered.
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    Comedy Central's Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert address the thousands that gathered.
    Saul Loeb/AFP/Getty Images
  • Some attendees came in costume.
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    Some attendees came in costume.
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • The crowds were festive, goofy, disillusioned with the state of politics if not the nation, and ready to play nice at a gathering called to counter all the shouting and flying insults of these polarized times.
    Hide caption
    The crowds were festive, goofy, disillusioned with the state of politics if not the nation, and ready to play nice at a gathering called to counter all the shouting and flying insults of these polarized times.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Slogans urged people to "relax." But also: "Righties, don't stomp on my head," a reference to a Republican rally in Kentucky at which a liberal activist was pulled to the ground and stepped on. And, "I wouldn't care if the president was Muslim."
    Hide caption
    Slogans urged people to "relax." But also: "Righties, don't stomp on my head," a reference to a Republican rally in Kentucky at which a liberal activist was pulled to the ground and stepped on. And, "I wouldn't care if the president was Muslim."
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Festive crowds swarmed on to the mall hours in advance, stickers and signs reflecting the call for people to chill out. "Vote sanity," stickers said. Slogans urged "relax."
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    Festive crowds swarmed on to the mall hours in advance, stickers and signs reflecting the call for people to chill out. "Vote sanity," stickers said. Slogans urged "relax."
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Black Thought of The Roots performed at the rally, which also included Ozzie Osbourne, Mavis Staples and even Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens.
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    Black Thought of The Roots performed at the rally, which also included Ozzie Osbourne, Mavis Staples and even Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Musicians Ozzy Osborne and Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, perform an unlikely mashup about trains.
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    Musicians Ozzy Osborne and Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, perform an unlikely mashup about trains.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Stewart said the day was about toning down anger and partisan division. "Shouting is annoying, counterproductive and terrible for your throat," he said on his website.
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    Stewart said the day was about toning down anger and partisan division. "Shouting is annoying, counterproductive and terrible for your throat," he said on his website.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Stewart is popular especially with Democrats and independents, a Pew Research Center poll found. Colbert of "The Colbert Report" poses as an ultraconservative, and the stage Saturday was stacked with entertainers associated with Democratic causes or Obama's 2008 campaign.
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    Stewart is popular especially with Democrats and independents, a Pew Research Center poll found. Colbert of "The Colbert Report" poses as an ultraconservative, and the stage Saturday was stacked with entertainers associated with Democratic causes or Obama's 2008 campaign.
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Comedy Central's park permit puts the crowd estimate at 60,000. There were plans for satellite rallies in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver and Honolulu.
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    Comedy Central's park permit puts the crowd estimate at 60,000. There were plans for satellite rallies in cities including Los Angeles, Chicago, Denver and Honolulu.
    Brendan Smialowski/AFP/Getty Images
  • The rally generated extensive buzz on the Internet, with more than 226,000 people on a Facebook page created for the event saying they would attend.
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    The rally generated extensive buzz on the Internet, with more than 226,000 people on a Facebook page created for the event saying they would attend.
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Stewart and Colbert encouraged attendees to bring signs with slogans such as "Real patriots can handle a difference in opinion," "It could be worse but let's not make it that way," and "Death to Nobody."
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    Stewart and Colbert encouraged attendees to bring signs with slogans such as "Real patriots can handle a difference in opinion," "It could be worse but let's not make it that way," and "Death to Nobody."
    Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images
  • Saturday's event mirrors the "Restoring Honor" rally held in August by Glenn Beck, the Fox News commentator popular among conservatives and tea party supporters.
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    Saturday's event mirrors the "Restoring Honor" rally held in August by Glenn Beck, the Fox News commentator popular among conservatives and tea party supporters.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • Stewart wants attendees to help restore the National Mall, which has a $400 million backlog of deferred maintenance.
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    Stewart wants attendees to help restore the National Mall, which has a $400 million backlog of deferred maintenance.
  • Colbert asked people to contribute to Donors Choose, which raises money for school supplies; proceeds from sales of rally merchandise also will go to the Yellow Ribbon Fund to help injured soldiers.
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    Colbert asked people to contribute to Donors Choose, which raises money for school supplies; proceeds from sales of rally merchandise also will go to the Yellow Ribbon Fund to help injured soldiers.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • The liberal Huffington Post was sending a caravan of 10,000 people on 200 buses from New York, while Oprah Winfrey expressed her support by providing travel expenses to a "Daily Show" studio audience of about 200 members so that they could attend.
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    The liberal Huffington Post was sending a caravan of 10,000 people on 200 buses from New York, while Oprah Winfrey expressed her support by providing travel expenses to a "Daily Show" studio audience of about 200 members so that they could attend.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images
  • One regular viewer of Stewart's The Daily Show,' she said she had a dream that he ran for political office, but got "corrupt and dirty." "I need him to stay pure," she said, deadpan.
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    One regular viewer of Stewart's The Daily Show,' she said she had a dream that he ran for political office, but got "corrupt and dirty." "I need him to stay pure," she said, deadpan.
    Win McNamee/Getty Images

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In the shadow of the Capitol and close to the election, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert entertained a huge throng rallying on Saturday for "sanity," poking fun at the nation's diversity and its ill-tempered politics.

In one shtick, Stewart and his associates queried some crowd-goers to identify themselves by category, eliciting answers from attendees such as "half-Mexican, half-white," "American woman single" and "Asian-American from Taiwan."

"It's a perfect demographic sampling of the American people," Stewart cracked. "As you know, if you have too many white people at a rally, your cause is racist. If you have too many people of color, then you must be asking for something — special rights, like eating at restaurants or piggy back rides."

Colbert honored NPR among other news organizations at the event with a "Medal of Fear" for forbidding employees to attend the rally. A 7-year-old girl accepted the award in NPR's absence.

The event sought in part to be a counterpoint to the "Restoring Honor" rally in August by Glenn Beck, the Fox News commentator popular among conservatives and tea party supporters. Beck's rally, which had strong religious overtones, drew some protests from civil rights supporters.

Don Novello, who years ago played Father Guido Sarducci on "Saturday Night Live," provided the benediction. He polled the crowd on their religious leanings, then gave thanks to God for allowing everyone to assign their various causes to him.

Egged on by the hosts, Ozzy Osbourne and Yusuf Islam, formerly known as Cat Stevens, engaged in something of a battle of the bands, the heavy-metal rocker and the folkie interrupting each other.

The crowds — easily tens of thousands strong — were festive, goofy, disillusioned with the state of politics if not the nation, and ready to play nice at a gathering called as a counterweight to all the shouting and flying insults of these polarized times. But there were political undertones, too, pushing back against conservatives ahead of Tuesday's election.

Slogans urged people to "relax." But also: "Righties, don't stomp on my head," a reference to a Republican rally in Kentucky at which a liberal activist was pulled to the ground and stepped on. And, "I wouldn't care if the president was Muslim."

Shannon Escobar, 31, of Bangor, Pa., came with a group of 400 people on buses chartered in New York. A supporter of President Barack Obama in 2008, she said she's tired of nasty rhetoric from both sides and disenchanted with lack of progress in Washington.

"I want to see real change — not Obama change," she said. "We need a clean slate and start over with people really working together."

A regular viewer of Stewart's "The Daily Show," she said she had a dream that he ran for political office, but got "corrupt and dirty."

"I need him to stay pure," she said, deadpan.

People also carried signs in favor of United Farmworkers and the movement to give the District of Columbia a vote in Congress. Many were college students, but the crowd cut across all age groups. "Seniors for pot" cried a half-dozen older people.

Organizers insisted the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear wasn't about politics. Still, supporters and left-leaning advocacy groups hoped it would rekindle some of the voter enthusiasm for Democrats seen in 2008, particularly among young adults.

Stewart is popular especially with Democrats and independents, a Pew Research Center poll found. Colbert of "The Colbert Report" poses as an ultraconservative, and the stage Saturday was stacked with entertainers associated with Democratic causes or Obama's 2008 campaign.

Even so, Stewart said the day was about toning down anger and partisan division. "Shouting is annoying, counterproductive and terrible for your throat," he said on his website.

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