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Comedians’ Rally Seeks to Kindle a Spirit of Sanity and/or Fear

Be it for politics or be it for comedy, crowds descended on the National Mall Saturday for the “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear,” organized by Comedy Central’s Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, in either in jest or protest of the nation’s political climate. A mix of comedians, musicians and entertainers are taking the stage in front of the Capitol – where all eyes will turn if the balance of power shifts after Tuesday’s midterm election.

While organizers say the gathering isn’t a political event, some rally-goers may beg to differ — and left-leaning groups are hoping it could stir the type of voter enthusiasm that Democrats enjoyed in 2008. “Daily Show” host Stewart has said the rally is about diffusing extremism and “shouting” in politics from liberals and conservatives alike.

For many, the event is seen as an answer to the types of views put forth by right-leaning commentators like Glenn Beck of Fox News, who recently staged the “Restoring Honor” rally, which had strong religious overtones and included a speech by Tea Party favorite and former GOP vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin – but was also billed as a nonpolitical affair.

Stewart and Colbert have both seen their profiles as political commentators rise this election season. Stewart interviewed President Obama this week (his first with a sitting president) and Colbert recently testified on Capitol Hill (in character) about the plight of migrant farm workers.

In its coverage of the rally Saturday, the Washington Post observed:

But with its Capitol backdrop, exuberant crowd and clever placards, the Stewart-Colbert rally began to look like an ironic version of the political theater it sends up. At some point, do those mocking such hubris actually exhibit hubris?

“This is the most American thing I’ve ever done!” a young man screamed Saturday morning into a plastic megaphone, provided free by Comedy Central.

Notably, the event, which is being streamed live online and on Comedy Central, is expected to be a marketing and ratings winner. The event is also raising money for charities selected by the comedians – the Trust for the National Mall and DonorsChoose.org.

And the media have eagerly followed the buildup, with applications for press credentials at the event topping 1,000. Saturday’s coverage will include a report from the NewsHour – we’ll have an online video dispatch later today.

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