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October 30, 2010  | by: Kerri O'Malley

Jon Stewart: The Sound of Sanity

The fight for reason has begun.  And it’s going to be hilarious.  Today, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert will host their Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear at the National Mall in Washington, D.C at noon.  Also known as the Million Moderate March, the Rally to Restore Sanity, and the March to Keep Fear Alive, hundreds of thousands of people will flood the Mall, hoping to bring some reason back to politics and media coverage of political events.

Usually the man lampooning the media, hype for this afternoon’s rally has landed The Daily Show front-man Jon Stewart in the headlines of the media he (rightfully) scorns.  Adding to Stewart’s newsworthy glitz and glam, President Obama was a guest on The Daily Show this Wednesday after previously promoting Stewart’s rally.  That got just a tiny bit of attention.

As a result of this unprecedented presidential appearance and the popularity of the rally, media outlets across the channels have been jabbing at Stewart’s sense of humor.  The questions on every Fox News anchor’s mind seem to be: If Stewart is just-for-laughs, then why did the President appear on his program to give a serious interview? Why is Stewart holding what appears to be a political rally?  What are this comedian’s true intentions?  Is Jon Stewart part of an alien conspiracy attempting to destroy all of mankind?? (Hmm…that one sounds familiar…)

The Event's Poster

The media suspicion of Jon Stewart perfectly mirrors the type of irrationality and fear-mongering that today’s rally (and The Daily Show and The Colbert Report) hope to annihilate or, at the very least, heckle.

The recent interpretation of Stewart as a political figure, not a comedian, negates what he really does with every episode of The Daily Show.  Sure, on one hand, Stewart does want to involve his viewers in important politics and political news.  But on the other hand, Stewart’s brand of humor betrays why so many of us choose not to be involved in modern politics: political media has become a sensationalist, emotion-based form of entertainment, if something so hard-to-watch and openly biased can be called entertaining.  It has alienated those of us who wish to remain sane.

With this in mind, Stewart and Colbert’s shows have drawn a crowd no one expected.  A recent study by The Pew Research Center revealed that The Daily Show and Colbert Report viewers are not only more entertained, but actually more politically informed than audiences of any other political media.  That’s right: these Comedy Central shows have become a safe haven for those with half a brain and a low tolerance for insanity.

The system that we use to discuss politics on a national scale is broken and (as anticipated) shouting back at Stewart for pouring salt in its wounds.  But the anti-rally criticism isn’t just from the right-wing media.  A truly daunting question has risen to the surface in rally coverage:  Can comedy create change?

Today, We March!...Quietly, Please

It seems like it can. Stewart’s interview of the President was all too much of a reminder that Obama is having a difficult time creating the systemic change he promised while he is locked within our political system.  Stewart, as an outsider to politics but an insider to media, is working both within and without the system to create the kind of change we have longed for in this one tiny area of our existence.  But this tiny area matters.  Beating out the President and Kanye West in AskMen’s recent poll, Stewart was voted the #1 most influential man of 2010.  Blame it on the increasing importance of TV and the internet, Stewart’s news humor is really making waves this year.

Those waves can only continue today, possibly turning into a tsunami of awesome (fingers crossed).  Many are calling the rally this generation’s Woodstock, and I would agree.  After all, this rally is not only meant to unite people from different political backgrounds in peaceful discussion (see: The Daily Show‘s recent Sanity Bus clips), but there will also be music!  (Albeit old-people music: Sheryl Crow?  Jeff Tweedy?  Mavis Staples?  Did I just age 20 years?)

When Jon Stewart announced the rally in September, he said, “We have seen these folks, the loud folks, over the years, dominate our national conversation on our most important issues.”  This weekend, let’s remember that just because we don’t want to engage in a shouting match and call everyone a Hitler wannabe doesn’t mean that we should be denied the ability to participate in modern politics.  The only extreme that we need to be is extremely against extremism.

For those like me who fully support the rally but cannot attend in the flesh, Comedy Central will be airing the event live, without commercial breaks, from noon until 3pm today.  Join me and the moderate masses to promote reason, whether from the National Mall or in your own living room, and keep our generation sane.

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