Stewart and Colbert announced the two rallies back in September, originally billed as competing events with Stewart's "Rally To Restore Sanity" and Colbert's "March To Keep Fear Alive" (See some video highlights since then here). But in one segment on the Daily Show, Colbert revealed he didn't get a permit for his event, and requested to be put on Stewart's. The two were officially merged.
Still, it's unclear what's actually going to happen at the rally. Stewart's been vague about the details in his various media appearances. He has touted the rally's theme by asking attendees to make signs like "I disagree with you, but I'm pretty sure you're not Hitler." Colbert meanwhile has asked that his followers dress up in Halloween costumes to propagate his "fear" theme.
This leaked line-up may provide some clues as to the content of the rally:
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.
1:20: Mr. Colbert enters, and two actors -- Don Novello and Sam Waterston -- perform readings.
1:40: Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staples 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.
But, as the New York Times reports, Judy McGrath, the chief executive at MTV Networks (which is Comedy Central's parent company), has advised that "whatever you think it's going to be, it's probably not going to be that."
That hasn't stopped just about everyone from speculating about what the rally will be about, with many offering up a heap of criticism on Stewart for everything from stealing the thunder of Get Out The Vote, to veering too far into politician-territory, to being a Glenn Beck copycat.
Paul Farhi at the Washington Post says there are just too many similarities between Stewat's rally and Beck's rally to be ignored:
Nevertheless, the similarities to Beck's rally are just the sort of thing Stewart himself would satirize on his show if, of course, it weren't his rally and his TV show in the first place. In his few pre-rally comments, Stewart has reached for some of the broad values and high-minded themes that Beck's did -- civility, decency, making America better -- though admittedly with fewer religious allusions and more comic panache. And whereas Beck undercut his claim of non-political intent by inviting Sarah Palin to be his co-star, Stewart may have undercut his by allying with a couple of noted liberals, Arianna Huffington and Oprah Winfrey.
Stewart has denied that his rally is a response to Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally, though the name is clearly a riff on Beck's. "Like everything that we do, the march is merely a construct. It's just a format," he said on NPR's "Fresh Air." He added: "You know, people have said it's a rally to counter Glenn Beck. It's not. What it is is, we saw [Beck's Aug. 28 rally in Washington] and thought, what a beautiful outline, what a beautiful structure to fill with what we want to express in live form, festival form."
Slate columnist Timothy Noah bemoaned that "The spectacle of affluent 18-to-34-year-olds blanketing the Mall to snicker at jokes about wingnut ignoramuses and Bible thumpers will, I fear, have the effect of a red cape waved before a bull."
The Washington Post's Carlos Lozada addresses Stewart and says that "this "Rally to Restore Sanity" feels just a little too . . . what's the word . . . earnest for you."
"I'm fairly certain that your rally won't change the face of American politics or alter the fate of the republic. But I worry that it will change you -- or our perceptions of you," Lozada writes.
Time television critic James Poniewozik said that the rally makes it seem like Stewart's "taking himself too seriously or becoming some sort of messiah figure or a partisan telling people, you know, go forth, my mighty people, and vote XYZ and pursue such and such policies."
Despite the criticism, some Democrats and liberals have decided to go with the flow. The DNC sent out an e-mail to Organizing For America supporters calling for people to "turn the energy from that rally into action by contacting key voters across the country and making sure they have a plan to vote by November 2nd," CNN reports.
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