OY ... IS THIS A SATIRICAL RALLY OR A PLEDGE DRIVE?
The National Park Service has the schedule for the Jon Stewart/Stephen Colbert rally on Saturday, and (unless this a prank I'm not grasping) The Christian Science Monitor has posted the details. My first reaction: um, is this going to be sharp-edged, biting satirical comedy, or is this going to be the sort of relaxed-fit-denim lite-variety entertainment you get during public-broadcasting pledge drives and in the downtime at Democratic conventions?
...Noon: The pre-show starts with a performance from The Roots.
12:40: A comedian (to be determined) warms up the audience.
12:57: A video countdown with a show introduction.
1:00: The show kicks off with the national anthem by a musical guest (to be announced).
1:05: Mr. Stewart welcomes the crowd...
1:20: Mr. Colbert enters, and two actors -- Don Novello and Sam Waterston -- perform readings.
1:40: Jeff Tweedy and Mavis Staple perform for 10 minutes, followed by Stewart and Colbert until 2 p.m.
2:15: Sheryl Crow performs for five minutes, followed by speakers and guests (to be determined).
2:30: Musical guests (also still being lined up) come....
2:40: The show turns to a pre-taped sequence -- The Sanity and Fear Awards....
To round out the three-hour production, Stewart and Colbert will make their final statements....
Sheryl Crow? Alt-hip-hoppers who are pushing forty? A veteran R&B singer whose work is currently being mediated for us melanin-deficient types by a white guy? Oh, and an aging actor and '70s comic? (Though I can't help wondering how soon Fox Nation will respond to the presence of the guy who plays Father Guido Sarducci by asking, "Stewart Rally to Insult Catholic Church?")
I've been thinking for a while that we've been misreading this event -- we think it's about the election, and to some extent it is, but it's also about the fact that Stewart and Colbert will soon be facing competition from Conan O'Brien -- his new show starts November 8 at 11 P.M. Conan just made the cover of Rolling Stone. He targets more or less the same demographic as Comedy Central's late-night guys. And Stewart and Colbert seem to be responding to this threat with ... a live, supersized late-night variety special, possibly for a slightly older (and more financially secure) crowd. Maybe this is mostly about television.