Answering Beck and call? Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert head to the Mall.

By Lisa de Moraes
Saturday, September 18, 2010; C01

Comedy Central will stage the Mother of All Marketing Stunts on the Mall here in Washington -- oh wait, Fox News Channel's Glenn Beck already did that.

Anyway, Viacom-owned cable network Comedy Central will stage another Mother of All Mall Marketing Stunts on Oct. 30, when both its late-night hosts, Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert, who plays the conservative, host opposing rallies.

"The Daily Show's" liberal Stewart announced on his show Thursday night his Rally to Restore Sanity, a.k.a. a Million Moderate March -- "a rally for the people who've been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs), not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority."

"See you on October 30, on the National Mall, spreading the timeless message: Take it down a notch for America," Stewart said at the bottom of Thursday's telecast.

"I am sorry, Jon Stewart, I will not take it down a notch. I will notch it up a skosh," Colbert said at the top of his show, immediately after Stewart's.

"Shame on you, Jon Stewart -- America cannot afford a rally to restore sanity in the middle of a recession. . . . Did you even consider how many panic-related jobs that might cost most of us in the fear-industrial complex?" Colbert ranted.

"On October 30, 2010, I am calling for the nation to join me on the Washington Mall for the March to Keep Fear Alive."

On its Web site, the cable network promises that the rally rivalry will be "bigger than Nixon/Kennedy, Ali/Foreman, Aniston/Jolie, 50 Cent/Nas, Joe/The Volcano, Alien/Predator, Bunny/Fudd and Ecks/Sever combined."

But Stewart and Colbert are operating in the shadow of prime-time FNC talking head Beck, who last fall asked "you, your family and neighbors to join me at the feet of Abraham Lincoln on the National Mall for the unveiling of The Plan and the birthday of a new national movement to restore our great country," on Aug. 28.

Imagine Beck's surprise -- really, he said he was -- when he discovered that his Restoring Honor rally date was the exact same day Martin Luther King Jr. had delivered his "I Have a Dream" speech at the Lincoln Memorial 47 years earlier.

On his show, Stewart said the rally date has no significance -- except that he was planning to be in Washington anyway, Oct. 25-28, to tape a week of shows under the banner "When Grizzlies Attack: The Daily Show Midterm Teapartyganza" at the Shakespeare Theatre Company's Sidney Harman Hall, as part of his "Indecision 2010" coverage of the midterm elections.

We've discovered that a permit application was submitted for the Oct. 30 rally rivalry, on Sept. 8 to the National Park Service by Minassian Media, Comedy Central and Chris Wayne and Associates.

Craig Minassian is a former Clinton administration press aide who is now a consultant to Comedy Central. Wayne is a former Clinton White House event organizer who works on large-scale media events and promotions.

Although the permit has not yet been issued, "we do not see any hugely outstanding issues that would prevent or bar the signing of a permit," Bill Line, spokesman for the National Park Service, told WaPo TeamTV's National Mall Rally Correspondent, David Montgomery.

The permit application modestly estimates a crowd of just 25,000 people, which suggests that Comedy Central does not think there are very many people with a sense of humor living within a reasonable commute of the Mall.

"We actually anticipate upwards of 400 million people will attend," said a somewhat optimistic source at Comedy Central who has knowledge of the rally plans and who requested anonymity -- which we granted on the theory that what the heck, it was Friday.

According to news reports, about 87,000 people showed up for Beck's rally in August -- though Beck, on his Fox News Channel program, dismissed that number as pure horseradish. He told his FNC viewers that they should believe no one but him and that "a minimum of 500,000" people came to his rally -- which, he contended, was the sixth-largest gathering on the Mall ever, and approximately the same size crowd as had come to the Mall for that other defining moment, "Ronald Reagan's inauguration."

On the other hand, Adam Serwer of the American Prospect, guest-blogging on The Post's political blog the Plum Line a couple of days after Beck's rally, wrote that "while the official Tea Party estimates of Saturday's rally attendance may range between a gajillion and the fafillion, the company CBS hired to give an estimate placed the turnout at a respectably large 87,000, larger than the official estimates of turnout last year's 9/12 rally but nowhere near the estimated 1.8 million that attended Obama's inauguration."

Although both Stewart and Colbert mentioned the Mall in their announcements, the permit application is for the north side of the Washington Monument grounds -- which does not include the Lincoln Memorial, Reflecting Pool or what is known as the Mall -- says Line, what with the Monument grounds being bounded by Constitution and Independence avenues and 15th and 17th streets (the north side is the side toward Constitution).

On the other hand, Line said the Park Service and applicants are negotiating details as we write. Line declined to discuss specifics of those negotiations. Ditto Comedy Central, Minassian, blah, blah, blah.

On Friday morning, participants in a campaign were high-fiving one another for having played Facebook fan David Matthews to Comedy Central's Betty White. (Remember Matthews? He's the guy who created that Facebook group called "Betty White to Host SNL [please?]!") On Aug. 30, message-board commenters started suggesting Stewart and Colbert should host rallies as a satirical answer to Beck's rally on Aug. 28, according to WaPo TeamTV's Reddit lurker, Melissa Bell.

Our Comedy Central source said there was no getting around the impact the Reddit campaign has had on the rally plans, while acknowledging that the idea had been hatched in the hallowed halls of the Comedy Central shows before that campaign got going.

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