Tens of thousands of people turned out on the National Mall for Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert's Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear, but afterwards the Comedy Central hosts said they are entertainers and the rally was not meant to be political.
Despite their disclaimers, the rally was in many ways a rebuke to Glenn Beck's "Restoring Honor" rally held just blocks away two months ago. Dominated by skits on "sanity," racial diversity and religious tolerance, the comedians blasted the press and pundits as they handed out comedic "Fear" awards.
"This was a not a rally to ridicule people's faith or people's activism ... or suggest that times are not difficult or that we have nothing to fear. They are and we do. But we live in hard times, not end times. And we can have animus and not be enemies," the "Daily Show" host said.
"Sanity will always be and always has been in the eye of the beholder," Stewart said. "Seeing you here today and the kinds of people you are has restored mine."
Though the rally, taking place just days before the midterm elections,
had been billed as an opportunity for people to air frustrations with American politics and the media, Stewart had claimed that the event was meant as a satirical comedy event rather than a serious political rally.
But there were clear political leanings, with Stewart taking on lawmakers on both sides of the political aisle.
"We work together to get things done every damn day. The only place we don't is here," he said, pointing to Capitol Hill, "or on cable TV, but Americans don't live here or on cable TV. Where we live our values and principles form the foundation that sustains us while we get things done, not the barriers that prevent us from getting things done."
Stewart dedicated his opening statements to judging the racial composition of the crowd.
"As I look out here today I can see we have over 10 million people," Stewart joked. "What makes it even better is the color I see, the variety I see, it's the perfect demographic sampling of the American people."
"If you have too many white people at a rally, your cause is racist," he said. "If you have too many colored people at a rally, then you must be asking for something ... something we as a society are not ready to give."
Though Colbert was one of the chief stars of the day, he took a back seat to Stewart, who both opened and closed the event.
The mock conservative joked that he wanted to inform public whether they should cower in fear or die bravely.
As a comedic twist on religious tolerance, Muslim convert and musician Yusuf Islam (formerly known as Cat Stevens), sang a mellow song "Peace Train" alongside "Prince of Darkness" Ozzy Osbourne.
The rally was presented mostly an entertainment event, featuring stars like musician John Legend, singers Sheryl Crow and Kid Rock, hip hop band The Roots and actor Sam Waterston.
But the undertones were obviously political, with the state of the country's affairs foremost on people's minds.