A crowd estimated at more than 250,000 turned up in Washington, D.C., today to watch Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert host the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, but that doesn’t mean the hosts have developed big heads. During a press conference following the event at the National Press Building, Stewart insisted that though they inspired hundreds of thousands to travel to the nation’s capital to engage in rational dialogue, they hardly consider themselves significant political figures. “We’re not running for anything,” Stewart told reporters. “We do television shows for people that like them. And we hope people continue to like them so Comedy Central can continue to sell beer to young people.” Read on for the highlights from the press conference:
- Stewart and Colbert have been planning the rally since March. Not that they expected it to actually happen. “The number of scripts we generated, the number of ideas, the number of people we talked to — to have it all coalesce and funnel through this three-hour window and for it to happen is just [an] incredible joy,” Colbert said.
- Many watched the rally — at the Mall and at home. According to a rep from Comedy Central, 4 million streamed the rally on computers from home, while more than 250,000 people were in attendance. And a good chunk of those 250,000 people rode to the rally in one of Arianna Huffington’s free buses: At the press conference, she said she had 200 buses carrying 10,000 people.
- Stewart wrote his keynote address one night before the rally. “I stayed up late last night until I was done…. I just wanted to speak a little bit from the heart,” Stewart said. Colbert, on the other hand, claimed he took even less time to write his own address: “I improvised everything I did.”
- The rally wasn’t seamless. Though it was certainly tough for Stewart to hit that high note during his duet with Colbert — as the Colbert Report host was eager to point out — the most difficult part of organizing the event was gathering the on-stage performers, who included Yusuf Islam, the O’Jays, and Ozzy Osbourne, to name a few. “Trying to get in somebody from Dubai, and another group from Cleveland, and get Ozzy in from… wherever Ozzy is from [was hard],” Stewart said. But it was worth the effort: “One of the nicest things about the event for me was their joy in performing together,” he said. “There was a moment when we were in the trailer with The Roots, and I had Yusuf to my left, and Ozzy to my right … We all felt like 12-year-olds. We just played in this little trailer. It was purely joy. That, to me, was the best and the hardest thing to pull off and put together.”
- Stewart and Rick Sanchez have made peace. The Daily Show host says his feud with the embattled CNN host — who was fired after an interview in which he called Stewart a “bigot” and implied that Jews control the U.S. media — is all but over. “He called me a few days later. We spoke … It was pretty anti-Semitic,” he joked. “[No], he was very kind … he is not a bad guy.” But someone else is still waiting to hear from Sanchez. “He has yet to call me,” Colbert said.
- One of Stewart’s regrets during his interview with President Obama? Calling the commander-in-chief “dude.” “I don’t think there’s any interview that I’ve ever done that I don’t end up going, ‘I wish I had done that better,’” he said. “But I also called King Abdullah of Jordan … ‘broseph.’” Stewart said he is fond of the spontaneity of his segments. “[The interviews] can also be the most revelatory,” he said. “At times it’s a high-wire act. At times it works, at times it doesn’t. But again, the joy of it is trying.”
- Stewart’s not afraid of bad reviews. The host might have bashed the media during his rally, but he’s not afraid the media may bash him. “I don’t care,” he said of the possibility of poor reviews. “I just don’t care. We’re proud of ourselves, we’re proud of the show we did, and, for us, the success of it was the execution and the idea and the intention … We’ve developed a pretty thick skin as far as critcism or praise, quite frankly.”