Stewart and Colbert in "Rally Tally" -

Stewart and Colbert in “Rally Tally”


The Rally To Do Something Or Other is over, and with it, a few days in which The Daily Show and its spinoff (or the Stewartverse) have topped the list of TV-related things to write about. You can read the full text of Stewart’s closing speech here.

I can’t say I really enjoyed watching most of the rally, though it got more fun as it went on, but then these things are tricky to watch on television or, in this case, live-streaming. They’re not shows performed with an audience for the benefit of the viewer at home, they’re done for the people who are there — even if many of them have trouble seeing or hearing anything if they’re standing too far way from the stage — and the people at home are peripheral.

So this wasn’t exactly a TV show, except for a few bits that were clearly aimed at the home viewer, like Tim Meadows’ return appearance as P.K. Winsome. (Colbert has tried to create a few recurring characters who parody established pundit-show figures, but Winsome is the one who’s lasted the longest. He’s a combination of two typical characters from pundit shows: the black Republican who gets on cable news a lot because there aren’t many black Republicans, and the guy who uses his news appearances as a thinly-disguised excuse to advertise his business.) Otherwise, it was, like any rally, a news event as much as a show. And that’s the source of the weirdness and the questions about how to respond to this thing, because it is simultaneously a parody of a rally and a straight-up, actual event, complete with questions about how many people showed up and whether it was a politicized rally.

Personally, I wish it had been more politicized, not because I think it would change minds, but just because it would have given the event more bite than the message Stewart was actually trying to convey. His belief that the media is making things worse by blowing everything out of proportion, and that people would have an easier time getting along if it weren’t for the 24-hour news culture, has been pretty consistent over the years; what he said in his final speech is similar to what he said in his famous appearance on Crossfire all those years ago. I think there’s an argument that it’s really a dodge to keep from really outright taking a partisan political side and giving up the “only sane man” pose.

If you read the speech, it’s a nice statement of his belief that people are people no matter where they are, and that they are not partisan attack machines in their everyday lives. Which is true, but a bit irrelevant to the message and mission of news, and of politics. There’s not much conflict between saying that people of opposing views can get along and work together in everyday life and that people of opposing views can’t get along and work together in politics. So the media’s picture of a world where nobody can get along  is probably more accurate than Stewart’s rosier picture — at least when it comes to politics. Stewart does a good job of ripping the way 24-hour news views politics — a vicious sporting event where the game is the only thing that matters, and nothing has any real consequences for real people’s lives. But that could be closer to the truth than his view that reasonable people can come together to solve problems if the pundits just stop shouting.

Update: My collague Luiza Ch. Savage was there in person, and has a report on the live experience of the rally and its attendees.

Elsewhere, Christine Becker, who was there live, has a post on the experience of the rally, how it differed from the televised experience, and the “visceral feeling of unity” it gave to the participants.


Stewart and Colbert in “Rally Tally”

  1. It wasn't meant to be political….it was meant to be funny and fun….and get people to turn down the polarizing rhetoric and fear.

    It's not often you see a country having to talk people off the edge, but that's what they were doing.

    • ITA. If anything, the message was aimed directly at Stewart's biggest target, the 24 hour news networks in America that have cultivated their own message of hysteria and conflict aimed at getting more people to watch their shows and to bombard them with advertising in the process. Fox News, CNN, MSNBC, they are all to blame for becoming lapdogs instead of watchdogs.

    • you got that right, emily, about talking people off the edge. i am a relatively sane person, i thought i was. the state of the USA had me thinking of taking the harpers ferry armory, a la john brown, to make a statement. i was just thinking about it, not planning it. i found it disturbing that i was so frustrated that i was thinking it.

      the rally came along and it helped me realize that the majority of the USA is just as frustrated as i. i garnered some faith in my people, that there was more of us than there are of them. so i registered to vote and i'll try the peaceful revolution with the rest of "sanity".

      the rally wouldn't have spoken to me if it had been political. it was just America at one of its finest moments and long overdue.

      • I think we saw the best part of America today….people being reasonable and rational [and even having fun]….and I also think people needed to see that side of America.

        Our 24/7 news cycle is full of 'fear, fear, fear'…..and the kind of bizarre people that catch camera-time….and wild opinions and accusations and ads [ I never thought I'd see one starting out 'I am not a witch'] ….and there are days you figure the whole nation has gone nuts!

        Everyone is frustrated at the changes taking place….or not taking place…but the whole thing had become hysterical….and this was a breath of fresh air.

  2. And it fails of course, being that anything that represents liberalism is a failure considering reality only condones success. Poor liberals.

    • You shouldn't post if you've been drinking.

    • You are a silly troll. Go back to your cave. The program that you are commenting on, though I doubt you watched, was definitely a success. Furthermore regarding success, take the time to look up the net worth of Stewart and Colbert. Much more than you will ever see in your lifetime.

    • Whereas people like you consider success to be raising your voice and screaming nonsense until you drive others away. The exact opposite of what Stewart and Colbert were talking about. Poor troll.

    • It's not my fault that the Tea Party's movement party was about something, and this one was about nothing.

      • It was about 'restoring sanity'…something you need to know.

        • They just don't have a stand to take. Conservatives have principles which must be adhered to. Liberals have wishy-washy ideas that they waft to and fro from, never really settling on anything. And yet, reality never chances so thus, liberals, in their quest towards dictating to reality what reality must be, are doomed to always fail.

          • I disagree with you, but i'm pretty sure your not hitler.

          • are you really this stupid or are you just faking it for attention

          • You are a brainwashed fool to think that the tea bagging conserv-o-cons have anything but fear and selfishness to offer! Now get out there and vote for sanity!

          • The stand is to stop blindly calling the other side names and have an actual discussion. I was a lifelong Republican and have recently been voting Democrat because I am firmly in the center, not left or right. The "wishy-washy ideas that they waft to and fro from" are ideas from all over the political spectrum that get debated and discussed, instead of getting talking points and blindly following them as a solid bloc.

          • And what exactly are these principles to which you speak? Is it that liberals are "elitists" who participate in back-door deals to get into office? Because there is no way that any conservative would ever do something like that. Or perhaps it's you cherished "family values" (whatever the hell that actually means). Hot times in DC with congressmen from both sides of the aisle being involved is scandals. Oh I know, you must be talking about the whole shrinking of government thing. Yeah we saw a HUGE shrinkage in govt during the Bush era (or senior Bush era, or Regan era). I'm just confused as to what you mean by 'principle' since it seems to me that all politicians can be corrupt and both major parties seem to go back on their word.

          • Tell me Ryan, which conservatives have a monopoly on principles. The used to be United States deficit or deceit at its best Reegan (officially recorded more downright lies told to the people). Bush and the Joker GWB, all achieved record exit deficit spending. Clinton and Obamha both inherited a mess and ran it up higher. The fact is that if you look at any advanced liberal democracy anywhere in the world the conservatives fuk it up every time. As a Canadian citIzen we have record deficit spending from out cut taxes and keep spending government.

          • Ryan your comments show exactly the point sane people are trying to make, that some in the new extreme media like most commentators in fox have made their primary goal to get regular people like you warmed up every day and into thinking that anyone who does not think like you and is not a conservative like you is your enemy. As I see, they have done their job very well. You seem to have an extreme disdain for anyone who disagrees with you and does not follow your political ideology. They have made you into an individual that is full of hate and disdain for anyone who does not think like you. You are unable to have any principle of respect towards anyone who does not think like you. I'm sorry but you are a victim. Do what Jesus does and love your enemy (imaginary enemy I must say), otherwise you are a hypocrite.

          • Surely I do love my enemy but that does nothing towards whether or not I love their ideology. There is no compromise with reality, and that's what liberalism attempts to do; so it is a failure. Does it mean it's people who believe it are failures? No, because like me, they too can find their way to conservatism, and usually once they do, they are not able to turn back because they see just how little sense liberalism actually makes.

          • Honey….Jesus was a liberal.

          • Ahem…not entirely true…but neither was he a neo-con – a radical???

      • Just exactly was the "something" that the "tea party's movement….was about?"

        The "Tea Party's movement party" is more like a "bowel movement party."

  3. Stewart's speech offered, I think, an accidental revelation about his show. "Most Americans don't live their lives solely as Democrats, Republicans, liberals or conservatives. Americans live their lives more as people that are just a little bit late for something they have to do–" and fair enough. The sentiment echoes Obama's 2004 Democratic convention speech about churchgoing Blue Staters and gays in the Red States. But if that's all true, and politics and punditry are so irrelevant to American life, why make half your nightly show about Fox News? Unless you just figure that no, it's not very important, but it's what your audience wants — in which case you're not a whole lot different from Fox News.

    • He doesn't say it's 'irrelevant'….he said people don't live 'solely' for that.

    • why make half your nightly show about Fox News?

      Because Stewart believes Fox to be the worst perpetuator of the kinds of stories he mocks and calls out in the same speech. He honestly cares less about it being "conservative" than he does about the dishonesty and fear mongering it engages in.

      The thing most partisans of both stripes don't get about Stewart is that he's less a member of the "liberal" side than someone who's vehemently anti-BS; and Fox is a regular practicer of such.

    • "But if that's all true, and politics and punditry are so irrelevant to American life, why make half your nightly show about Fox News?"

      Stewart wasn't saying that politics are irrelevant to American life (because they're not) as much as he was saying that there's a massive gap between how the average American lives their life and how their politics are presented to them. It's the media's job to prevent that gap from forming; right now they are not only failing at that, but they're actually working to make the gap bigger, because they can make more money from massive controversy than they can from honest, rational, reporting. Stewart goes after FoxNews the most because he believes it to be the network that is most delinquent in its responsibility (though he doesn't hold back from other networks if he thinks they deserve it – as they frequently do).

  4. Hell, I'm still waiting to hear about the grassy knoll, the moon landing, and Dick Cheney's undisclosed location…. so don't hold your breath.

    • It depends which clone of Dick Cheney you're looking for.

  5. People make up conspiracy theories like this when reality is too scary for them to contemplate, but unfortunately the reality is that there are people who hate us simply because we exist and do not pray to their god.
    Who are you going to believe, conspiracy theorists over your own lying eyes? You're wasting your time.

  6. And that's what Stewart's detractors call his Clown Nose On, Clown Nose Off approach – taking a rather self-righteous stand on his show (and elsewhere) about others' distortions, and when people call him on his own, he retreats to 'hey! It's just a comedy show.'

    • Because. It. Is.

      His job is to get laughs and run CC's "Tonight Show" . Expecting him to ask "deeply probing questions" of people who come on is like expecting Marg Delahunty to crash a press scrum and start calling Flaherty out on the fine details of budget spending.

  7. Everything is not fine. The government cannot take care of me. People hate.

    Back to the cave. Better still, RUN FOR YOUR LIVES!

  8. Didn't they used to label opinion pieces? Alright, Whineman, we get that your scorn for this event is so great that you can't even bring yourself to call it by it's actual name. Real subtle. "I wish it had been more politicized", Whineman 'writes'. Doesn't he understand that would defeat the whole purpose of the rally? An entertainment 'writer' who can't recognize irony doesn't say much for the publication. I wish that Maclean's would stop hiring family and friends, and bring some proper journalists online.

    • I'm not sure whether you want me to be less ironic or more, honestly. So calling it by various other names would seem to fit in with the tone of the rally (which deliberately sowed confusion about what it was about, as a parody of vague rallies), but then I learn I'm not recognizing the irony of the event and/or its serious purpose. But the event is a deliberate mix of irony and sincerity — or a sincere message expressed through irony.

      Also, this is a blog; by definition almost anything on a blog is an opinion piece, isn't it? Particularly when it includes first-person opinions. If you're worried that people will think this is an objective statement of fact, I don't think you need to worry.

      I’m also going to hope the “Whineman” thing was a mistaken mis-spelling and not an attempt at an insult… because it would require a Cyrano-type of list of better insults in response.

  9. Stephen Colbert is a pompous airhead who made a fool of himself and Democratic Congressional leadership when he "testified" recently before a House Committee. That he woud treat a Congressional committee hearing as an avenue to for his comedy act reflected poorly on both. Jon Stewart is simply a wiseguy with a stupid smirk on his face who is, however, a window into the mind of the left. This event in Washington was a failure because it was all about these two clowns and had no transcendant purpose other than self-promotion.

    • And here I thought the same thing about Beck's rally.

  10. There's a good piece from a commentator who was there and who talks about the shared experience and what it meant to the people who were there.


    Gardener's piece would seem to back up Stewart's view that ordinary Americans are pretty sane, it"s the political classes [ includes the media] who have abandoned the centre.

    • "But it's the political class, not political scientists, who set the terms of public discussion, and it's typically in the interests of politicians, activists, and the media to play up discontent, drama, conflict, and change. So we hear all about Tea Party rallies. Glenn Beck in Washington. The upset victory of Christine O'Donnell. But nobody notices that in September — while the media were lavishing attention on the quirky O'Donnell — every one of the Congressional incumbents seeking re-nomination won."

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  13. do not change a bit the same as the other comments I realized right now. mountains of smoke when it passed the way it is. think I can cut out half of me hopes so egregious.
    Do not say my hair look especially the snow fell. instead, you have to say sometimes drool, but only sometimes:)
    Thank you to everyone who contributed comments on the construction. I do not need more exaggerated sexfilmiseyret enter here can forget the rest. Bye for now. If the problem will not make again. Note that I'm around the site