WASHINGTON — In the shadow of the Capitol and the election, comedians Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert entertained a huge throng Saturday at a ‘‘sanity’’ rally poking fun at the nation’s ill-tempered politics, fear-mongers and doomsayers.
‘‘We live now in hard times,’’ Stewart said after all the shtick. ‘‘Not end times.’’
Part comedy show, part pep talk, the rally drew together tens of thousands stretched across an expanse of the National Mall, a festive congregation of the goofy and the politically disenchanted.
Stewart, a satirist who makes his living skewering the famous, came to play nice. He decried the ‘‘extensive effort it takes to hate’’ and declared ‘‘we can have animus and not be enemies.’’
Screens showed a variety of pundits and politicians from the left and right, engaged in divisive rhetoric. Prominently shown: Glenn Beck, whose conservative Restoring Honor rally in Washington in August was part of the motivation for the Stewart and Colbert event, called the Rally to Restore Sanity and/or Fear. It appeared to rival Beck’s rally in attendance.
Colbert, who poses as an ultraconservative on his show, played the personification of fear at the rally. He arrived on stage in a capsule like a rescued Chilean miner, from a supposed underground bunker. He pretended to distrust all Muslims until one of his heroes, basketball great Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who is Muslim, came on the stage.
As part of the comedic routine, Stewart and his associates asked some in the audience to identify themselves by category, eliciting answers such as ‘‘half-Mexican, half-white,’’ ‘‘American woman single’’ and ‘‘Asian-American from Taiwan.’’
‘‘It’s a perfect demographic sampling of the American people,’’ Stewart cracked to a crowd filled with mostly younger whites. ‘‘As you know, if you have too many white people at a rally, your cause is racist. If you have too many people of color, then you must be asking for something — special rights, like eating at restaurants or piggy back rides.’’