Whew! The permit for the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert Washington rally this Saturday has finally been issued – today, making their “Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear” legit just in time. After receiving the necessary $10,000 in recovery costs, the National Park Service (NPS) issued the 60-plus-page document – and made it publicly available.
So, while the folks at Comedy Central keep their cards close to the chest (“We just aren’t releasing any details,” according to spokesman Tony Fox), here is what is known, according to a single page of the permit, read aloud to the Monitor by NPS representative Dena Lowe.
- 10:00 a.m.: The pre-pre-show begins with videos and music on the jumbotron to keep the gathering crowd friendly and entertained.
- Noon: The pre-show starts with a performance from The Roots.
- 12:40: A comedian (to be determined) warms up the audience.
- 12:57: A video countdown with a show introduction.
- 1:00: The show kicks off with the national anthem by a musical guest (to be announced).
- 1:05: Mr. Stewart welcomes the crowd – whose projected size is ballooning daily. Currently, there are 200,000 sign-ups on the official Facebook page alone.
- 1:20: Mr. Colbert enters, and two actors – Don Novello and Sam Waterston – perform readings.
- 1:40: Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staple perform for 10 minutes, followed by Stewart and Colbert until 2 p.m.
- 2:15: Sheryl Crow performs for five minutes, followed by speakers and guests (to be determined).
- 2:30: Musical guests (also still being lined up) come on.
- 2:40: The show turns to a pre-taped sequence – The Sanity and Fear Awards. (Noting the intense media interest in this event as she reads through the rundown, Ms. Lowe says, “I’d like some sanity, myself.”)
To round out the three-hour production, Stewart and Colbert will make their final statements. Then, adds Lowe, “They all hurry up and clean up after themselves.”
All of this is of course, subject to change and revision right up to the final moment. But one thing is for sure, the official events won’t be the only show on the National Mall this Saturday.
Dozens of groups from the established to the fringe have announced their intentions to be part of the extracurricular fun: One Nation March to Rebuild America and End War, the Molotov march, NARAL Pro-Choice America, Media Matters. There will even be a performance art duo wandering the crowd in historical costumes, politely requesting guests take an oath to honor the nobility within themselves.
Then, there is the burgeoning bus-capade. Busloads of fans from all over the country are set to trundle into the nation’s capitol for this event.
There is the high-profile stuff, such as the 200 buses sponsored by the Huffington Post founder. And then, there is the truly grass-roots entrepreneurs, such as Clark University freshman Rian Watt. He hustled a grant from the school and is charging $25 a head for the busload of 57 fellow students for an overnight ride. He says the group includes Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians, and Independents.
“I haven’t been to D.C. since I was 11,” he says, “ so I’m looking forward to taking in all the monuments and other spots on the mall, too.”
One additional note: the permit calls the rally, “a political engagement and entertainment event.” So, will this hybrid moment actually make a political mark of any importance? Opinions are certainly mixed on this point.
“It's a joke, and it will have no impact on the midterm elections,” says Washington attorney Jordan Sekulow, a former youth organizer for President George W. Bush in 2004, in an e-mail. “Most Americans won't be following this rally, certainly not likely midterm election voters – not usually Stewart's demographic.”
"Will it be funny?" he asks. "Yes." Will there be Republicans in the audience? "Yes. We have a sense of humor." Does it really matter? "No.”
Mr. Watt, a first-time voter this year, disagrees emphatically. “I signed up for this because Colbert and Stewart have spent 11 years lobbing spitballs at the process, and now they are actually doing something about changing the tone of the debate,” he says.
It might not rock the world, he adds, “but for all those who have been influenced by the cynical detachment of those comedians, this move to engage will really have an impact.”