‘Sanity’ rally blends activism, comedy

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By Hope Yen
Associated Press / October 31, 2010

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WASHINGTON — In the shadow of the Capitol and close to the election, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert entertained a huge throng that rallied yesterday 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 piggyback rides.’’

The event sought in part to be a counterpoint to the Restoring Honor rally held in August by Glenn Beck, the Fox News commentator popular among conservatives and Tea Party movement 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 crowd for the event — estimated in the tens of thousands — was 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 upon.

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.