WASHINGTON, Oct. 30, 2010 -- 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 withAmerican politics and the media, Stewart had claimed that the event wasmeant as a satirical comedy event rather than a serious politicalrally.
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.
Speaking at the National Press Club after the event, Colbert and Stewart said the event was not a political rally and was mostly done for entertainment.
"We're not running for anything," Stewart said. "We don't have a constituency. We do television shows for people that like them and we hope that they continue to like them so that Comedy Central can continue to sell beer to young people."
"We wanted to do a really good show for people that wanted it," he added.
The atmosphere in the crowd was one of comedic energy, with attendees carrying signs saying "Relax," "Freaking Out for Freedom," and "God Save Us from Ourselves."
Ginger Louerde, who traveled to the nation's capitol for the first time with her 10-year-old son, said she came to tell lawmakers and Americans to "stop shouting and play nice."
"I'm very concerned about what's happening on the right and about how they're pushing, pushing so hard against individual freedoms and I want to say, wait a minute, those of us on the left want to have a voice as well," Louerde, 42, told ABC News.
Samantha Desmarais, 23, said she drove from Rhode Island Friday night with her friends just to attend the rally.
"I hope to achieve sanity. We need sanity in the country. Things have gotten out of control. We need to fix things," said Desmarais, who wore a "Vote Sanity" sticker. "There's so much hatred and animosity ... and all this stuff is going on that does not need to happen. We need to come together as one and we need to reinstate our sanity, think positive, set some real goals and stop fighting each other."
Many attendees said they hoped the rally, taking place in the nation's capitol just days before the election, would ignite enthusiasm. In what has become a divisive election, Democrats face the prospect of losing control of the House and key Senate seats.
Crowds from around the country traveled to Washington to attend the event, similar to Beck's rally in August. The Huffington Post chartered 200 buses to bring 10,000 people to the event and several buses were reportedly still on their way even after the rally started. More than 220,000 people had RSVPed on the rally's Facebook page.