When we heard that Miami comedian Daniel Reskin (of Casa de Ha-Ha) was headed to the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear in Washington D.C., we strapped a mike on him and equipped him with a head cam. OK no, not really. We just asked him to tell us what it was like to be one of 250,000 rational people standing on the National Mall.
Admittedly, I'm a prime example of the Daily Show's main demographic: 18-34, male, left-leaning, and educated. Add the bonus wildcard of being a Jewish stand-up comedian and I'm a genetically-engineered uber-viewer, capable of swaying Nielson ratings four points by spinning a dreidel. So yeah, I enjoy the show. The Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear was a unique fusion of comedy and politics that breathed new life into both.
But as the rally began, we were stuck on an incredibly packed Metro
train. Everyone pulled out smart phones to check the live feed,
sacrificing precious battery life needed for pictures, updates, and
contacting friends, just to catch a buffering glimpse of Stewart in an
American flag suit. By the second stop, the cars were so full that I
accidentally got to second base 47 times. Traveling deeper into DC, our
un-boardable train arrived at stop after stop, teasing hordes of
full-blown WTF faces. The closer you were to the rally, the harder it
was to get there. It was some sadistic zen riddle.
We finally arrived and rushed excitedly up the stairs, into the National
Mall, and straight into the backs of a few hundred thousand other
people trying to get close enough to see the distant Jon Stewart-y
looking speck. We noodled our way through the impenetrable masses,
ending up about halfway back from the stage at the absolute threshold of
sight and sound. Suburban families, swarms of teenagers, a culturally
diverse crowd from different backgrounds coming together to wonder why
they wouldn't put speakers further back.
Standing on my toes I could sometimes see the video screen and catch the
occasional full sentence. I became a kind of translator, informing the
rest of my group and the shorter suburban moms smooshed into me of
important highlights. Like "Stewart and a giant Colbert puppet are
arguing", "John Oliver came out in a peter pan outfit" or "Colbert said
Muslims are evil, so to shatter stereotypes Jon brought out Kareem Abdul
Jabar... then he said robots are evil and... it's R2-D2!"
It wasn't ideal: being too far away, packed together with random streams
of people passing/humping you, signs blocking the view, random loud
dads trying to be funny because they can't hear, and the precious last
gasp of your cell phone battery squandered trying to find signal in a
dead zone of half a million texts, tweets, and updates.
There were reasons to be upset, but I didn't see a single person get
close to attempting to think about telling someone off. The crowd was
just too empathic, and why bother screaming if it just makes you
hungrier for overpriced event Thai food? It was somehow impossible to
get mad. We were part of something bigger. This wasn't a crowd of irate
citizens shouting shallow slogans. These were the people who see those
people and slap their foreheads. A diverse smattering of comedy fans
with consciences wearing Halloween costumes. A rally with an emphasis on
funny signs: political puns ("Teabags are D-bags"), internet memes
("Never Gonna Give You Up"), obscure references ("Steve Holt"), and
healthy doses of unrelated ridiculousness ("Toy Story 2 Was Okay"). This
rally was a quarter-million people almost as entertaining as the reason
The rally was a televised event so it ended at 3pm on the dot. As
credits rolled and the concept of personal space reemerged, I was
rewarded with some of the most fulfilling people-watching in history. I
enjoyed a lukewarm (and lukegood) hotdog while the masses dissipated,
heading back to wherever they came from or visiting any nearby phallic
monuments. It felt good to sit. It felt good to know that we blew Glenn
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Beck's rally to restore Honor out of the water. But mostly it felt good
to be a part of something significant. And I can't wait to get home so I
can see what happened.
-- Daniel Reskin