Saturday was the big day for Comedy Central TV hosts John Stewart and Stephen Colbert’s “The Rally To Restore Sanity and/or Fear” on the National Mall in Washington D.C. Though a few friends of mine made the trip over to the big event, a few folks here in town organized a satellite event, “The Rally To Restore Sanity Los Angeles” at Mac Arthur Park’s Levitt Pavilion.
Now, I’m not a viewer of either Stewart’s or Colbert’s shows, not because I don’t like them, but because I don’t have cable. But it was free, and I supported the purpose of the event, which is largely to speak up against the rise of unreasonable political extremism and fear-mongering on contemporary political discourse, which many believe is a huge distraction in solving the important issues of today’s America.
I arrived there from the Metro Rail station relatively late, at around 11 a.m., and found the scene to be, well…a little too sane. I saw a crowd of over 2,000, mostly white, aged late 20s to late 50s (and I assume mostly college-educated), huddled around the Levitt Pavilion bandshell (a place where I performed music in public for the very first time as a teen in 1986) ready to…watching TV. There was a video screen showing a satellite broadcast of the D.C. event, which was funny and entertaining. There were instances of clapping and laughter and cheers whenever “Los Angeles” was mentioned in the broadcast. And for someone like me who doesn’t have cable, it was the only way to see the event live.
The televised event ended with Stewart doing a 12-minute speech on the overall purpose of the event. A quote:
“This was not a rally to ridicule people of faith, or people of activism, or look down our noses at the heartland, or passionate argument, or to suggest that times are not difficult and that we have nothing to fear. They are, and we do. But we live now in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus, and not be enemies.”
In the end, the satirical comedy show host, in serious and earnest tones, pointed out the American people’s cultural and philosophical diversity, and that we can all work together for a common good.
After the broadcast, there was a program on the Levitt stage which featured mostly D-list celebrities and obscure stand-up comics (The local City Councilman, Ed Reyes, was the only recognizable name early on in the program). Most of them weren’t very funny at all and sacrificed with for bitching and whining. One of them, Paul Provenza, who has a number of TV show appearances and writing credits, yet is hardly successful on his own, ranted, “If you’re a Christian, then go fuck off.”
Umm, hey Paul, there are some folks here who happen to be of the Christian persuasion who are here for the same sociopolitical reasons as you supposedlyare. And did you not hear what Jon Stewart said? Guess not.
Provenza continued his routine by producing a small metal object and saying, “What’s this?” One member of the audience instantly heckled back, “That’s the sound of the audience leaving!”
The rest of the so-called stand up comics, though much less offensive, weren’t that much better. The host of the event, recalling her half-Italian heritage, launched into several minutes impersonating East Coast Italian American accents. Maybe it’s not funny because most people here don’t know a lot of people like that…
Early on, her routine was purposely interrupted by a staged “Flash Mob” of people in zombie attire doing Michael Jackson’s “Thriller” video dance routine. Aside from the timeliness, the connection was lost on everyone and garnered lots of “WTFs” from the crowd. Later, she explained, “Let’s keep the feat in the ‘Thriller’ video.” Oh, now I get it.
There were a few comic gems aside from the on-stage suckage. Willis Turner did a short routine that had great timing and delivery. Peter The Persian did a routine impersonating people speaking various Asian and European languages that sounded like stereotypical jibberish to the uninitiated, but he spoke actual words in those languages delivered in near-perfect accents. And Lalo Alcaraz (of La Cucaracha fame) did a satirical monologue from the as a fictional Latino Meg Whitman supporter, and later even did a jab on the “Phony Eastside” of Silver Lake. Coincidentally, or may be not, the three aforementioned comics whom I enjoyed are all people of color. Maybe I just don’t get white people humor, especially by the jaded, East Coast-bred types who bubble in and out of the showbiz scene. But by then the crowd of over 2,000 had been reduced to just a few hundred.
Interestingly, as someone on Twitter pointed out, during the televised event, there was no mention of voting. The hosts had disclaimed earlier that it was not a political event. A number of people did pass out election-related pamphlets. I’m quite sure this event appealed to people who already vote anyway.
So mixed reaction here. Props to the organizers for bringing a little of the DC event to one of L.A.’s well known and centralized (and transit-friendly) public parks, but although Jon Stewart told America to “Take it down a notch,” that didn’t have to apply to most of the “talent” that was booked.