HOH’s One-Minute Recess: Celebrities Grace Comedy Rally Stage

Posted October 30, 2010 at 3:10pm

When Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert held their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear on the National Mall on Saturday afternoon, joining them on stage were a seemingly random assortment of celebrities, who often played Daily Show-esque roles themselves.

Crooner Tony Bennett, R&B star John Legend, basketball legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, rocker Kid Rock and comedian Don Novello (remember him?) were among those who took part in the festivities. Most often, the celebrities were used as tools in the ongoing rivalry between Stewart and Colbert, whose competing-yet-joint rallies set the tone for the afternoon.

For example, early on in the rally, Stewart brought out Yusuf Islam (the musician formally known as Cat Stevens) to sing his classic anthem, “Peace Train.” But Colbert wasn’t having it, and he quickly interrupted Islam’s performance.

“I’m not getting on some international peace train that probably needs a Europass to get on it. I have a better train,” Colbert said.

His conductor: Ozzy Osbourne, who began singing rock anthem “Crazy Train.”

But Stewart wasn’t having that — “He said it was going off the rails,” the perplexed comedian noted — and asked Islam to keep playing. Colbert urged on Osbourne, and after the two musicians competed for awhile, Stewart and Colbert came up with a solution: Bring out the O’Jays, who performed “Love Train.”

To kick off the rally, Stewart introduced Novello, who was in character as Father Guido Sarducci, to give a benediction. Following a brief prayer, Sarducci tried to figure out which religion was the best one by listing different faiths and asking God to provide a sign.

Not surprisingly, there was no sign. But when Sarducci got to Judaism and Islam, he argued the two faiths shouldn’t be enemies.

“They don’t eat the same meat, but they don’t get along. What’s with that?” Sarducci said. “You think someone would say to them — you don’t eat pork, you don’t eat pork. Build on that.”

After Sarducci finished his prayer, Colbert would quickly respond with his own celebrity by bringing out “Law and Order” star Sam Waterston to read a special Colbert-themed poem, titled the “Great Poem Ever Written.” An excerpt: “Someone’s robbing your house/I can see through your blouse/You’re mother was right, you chose the wrong spouse.”

Another celebrity-filled part of the rally came with competing awards Stewart and Colbert handed out. While Colbert gave out a “Fear Award,” Stewart honored people with a “Medal of Reasonableness” for showing civility during tough times.

Stewart gave his honor to four folks: Detroit Tigers pitcher Armando Galarraga, who responded with restraint and civility after an umpire issued a wrong call that cost him a perfect game last season; Velma Hart, who asked President Barack Obama thoughtful questions during a CNBC town hall; professional wrestler Mick Foley, who conducts charity work despite his violent profession; and Jacob Isom, who snatched a copy of the Koran out of an evangelical pastor’s hand when the pastor sought to burn it.

Colbert’s honorees included news organizations who banned employees from attending the rally, especially National Public Radio; CNN anchor Anderson Cooper’s tight black T-shirt, which the newsman often wears while on a dangerous assignment; and Facebook creator Mark Zuckerberg, who helped rid the world of privacy.

Zuckerberg didn’t show up to get it. “I will accept this medal on his behalf and then post a picture of me wearing it on my Facebook wall,” Colbert noted.

Not every celebrity appearance was comedic. The Roots kicked things off with an hourlong performance. Legend, Kid Rock and Sheryl Crow also performed, and Tony Bennett helped close the show with a performance of “America the Beautiful.”

Washington celebrities, meanwhile, were few and far between. HOH did spot MSNBC’s Chris Matthews and Luke Russert in the crowd. Arianna Huffington, who bused in around 10,000 New Yorkers for the rally, mingled throughout the crowd during the rally, and D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D) also was expected to attend.

Norton Drinks Her Revenge. D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton made good on her promise to drink a “Norton’s Revenge” after the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear today, though she did so without her nemesis Stephen Colbert.

As the rally was ending, the D.C. Democrat stopped by the Passenger in Mount Vernon Square, where she hoped Colbert would rise to her challenge and join her in taking her namesake shot.

“Hey Stephen! I’m ready for you!” Norton shouted, shot in hand. “I’ll even buy you a drink!”

While bar owners Tom and Derek Brown won’t reveal what’s in the shot, Norton did say the pink drink was very sweet with a hint of cinnamon.

The owners “warned me off it and I said, ‘how can I possibly not drink my revenge when I challenged Colbert to?'” Norton said.

After taking the first sip she made a disgusted face.

“I’m not downing it, I’ll tell you that,” she said, sitting at the bar holding the drink in one hand a “Let DC Vote” sign in the other.

Norton was joined at the bar by a slew of rally-goers, many of whom stopped by to shake her hand. In fact, one even paid for the Delegate’s signature shot.

Metro Work Insanity for Sanity Rally Transportation. Washington’s Metro system doesn’t exactly have the best reputation for reliability, and its performance getting people down to the mall for Saturday’s Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear probably isn’t going to help matters.

Complicating the problem is that maintenance work is taking place on every Metro line.

Up to 200,000 people are estimated to be in town for the rally, plus thousands more for homecoming events at Howard University and for Sunday’s Marine Corps Marathon. But despite the increased ridership, Metro scheduled track maintenance on multiple lines this weekend, causing further delays to already jam-packed Metro trains.

On the Blue and Orange lines, trains share the same track between the Stadium Armory and Cheverly stations because of maintenance work, as they are on green and yellow lines, between the Fort Totten and Prince Georges Plaza stations. The Red Line isn’t immune, either, as trains are sharing the same track between the New York Avenue and Rhode Island Avenue stations.

A Metro spokesman didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.

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