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.
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.
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."
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.
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."
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.