Jon Stewart Hosts, Bruce Springsteen Rocks Fourth Annual Stand Up for Heroes Benefit
NEW YORK -- Laughter and music for charity filled the air here Wednesday night at the annual Stand Up for Heroes show, presented by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and The New York Comedy Festival.
The fourth annual benefit event, hosted this year by Jon Stewart, once again served as the festival's big kickoff with such big names as Jerry Seinfeld, Bruce Springsteen, Tony Bennett and Joel McHale.
Bob Woodruff spent five weeks in a coma after sustaining injuries while reporting for ABC News from Iraq. All proceeds from the event go to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which supports wounded service members, veterans and their families.
Kicking off the event at the Beacon Theatre on Manhattan's Upper West Side -- instead of its previous venue Town Hall -- Woodruff said the outing has been getting bigger every year. He welcomed the audience together with his wife Lee, who engaged him in friendly banter, which has become a tradition at the event. For example, she immediately apologized for losing her voice before quipping that her husband finds that sexy though. To laughs, she also teased her husband, asking him: "Is it wrong to want to make love to Jon Stewart's mind?"
Introducing an inspirational opening video about the Foundation's work, Jimmy Kimmel next showed up on a video screen, saying: Hello, "I'm George Stephanopoulos."
He joked that the audience should donate money as Springsteen hadn't agreed to come back this year just to watch the audience sit on their wallets.
For every $100 donated, Gabourey Sidibe would give him a wet willy, Kimmel joked. At the end of the video showing Woodruff and some wounded soldiers his foundation has worked with, Sidibe indeed showed up on the video screen next to Kimmel -- and gave him two wet willies.
Stewart then kicked off the on-stage proceedings, which were also live-streamed online to some military bases.
Stewart, who had sent a video message to the audience for last year's Stand Up For Heroes, started off with some political humor. When he heard that the event would raise money for the wounded, he said he thought: "Oh, a Democratic Party fundraiser." After wanting change two years ago, Americans this time around just wanted the usual in Tuesday's midterm elections, Stewart continued. And he joked that Republicans were an endangered species two years ago, but Tuesday's election results just showed how good Democrats are at conservation. After thanking the soldiers for defending his ability and right to spout opinions for a living and performing some family humor, Stewart brought Bennett on stage to a big ovation.
Soon after Bennett's performance, Springsteen also was greeted with a massive welcome and entertained the full house.
Up next, one of Springsteen's guitars was auctioned off, and fellow E Street Band member Max Weinberg, who led the onstage band on the drums, said he would throw in a tie to maybe draw a few extra dollars. Auctioneer Jamie Niven, the son of actor David Niven, and Brian Williams led the auction and raised a much-applauded $140,000 from an unidentified woman.
Last year, Law & Order: SVU star Mariska Hargitay walked away with a Springsteen guitar for $50,000.
The auction was followed by donation pledges from the audience -- raising additional money.
McHale, who had told reporters before the show that he was looking forward to watching Springsteen, performed next.
"Thank god for that auction between me and Bruce Springsteen," he opened to laughs. After calling himself a poor man's Ryan Seacrest, he threatened he would sing "Glory Days."
"Snooki" and Jersey Shore served him well as material for jokes about Springsteen's home state. Touching on the issue of soldiers and war, McHale also made references to Oscar winner The Hurt Locker and video game Halo.
Wednesday night's show also included a video message from President Obama and standup comedian Bill Burr, who had audiences in stitches throughout his act with relationship humor.
Seinfeld closed the show to much laughter and applause after Stewart introduced him by saying he was a big fan and has watched Seinfeld reruns for years.
Last year, Brian Williams hosted the Woodruff Foundation benefit. Before him, Regis Philbin and Conan O'Brien led the show.
The honorary committee for this year's event included such industry executives as CNN's Ken Jautz, CBS' Sean McManus, ABC's Anne Sweeney, HBO's Richard Plepler, NBC Universal's Jeff Zucker, David Westin and Jon Klein.