The annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit at Madison Square Garden regularly features A-list talent, but this year's 10th anniversary show was especially star-studded, with frequent performers Jon Stewart and Bruce Springsteen joining returning comedians Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K. and Jim Gaffigan.
Also, since Stewart has left his nightly gig as host of Comedy Central's Daily Show, his Stand Up for Heroes sets have likely become even more highly anticipated for fans as they offer a rare chance for him to comment on the political landscape. And Tuesday night, Stewart didn't disappoint, going over recent developments in the wild presidential race between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump as he frantically paced back and forth, visibly bewildered by the chaotic events of the past few months.
Stewart last weighed in on the election in a public forum on the last night of the Republican National Convention, when he joined Stephen Colbert on CBS' Late Show, on which Stewart also serves as an executive producer. Since then, Trump and Clinton have provided plenty of new material.
And the former Daily Show host didn't waste much time, opening his set by telling the audience, including the wounded veterans in attendance, that he was so glad he could be there "on the eve of the last American election."
The often casually dressed comedian even dressed up for the occasion, wearing a white dress shirt and a tie.
"I'm not in the game anymore. I'm not as much of a political analyst," Stewart continued. "But if I could ask you a question that I've been saying to my television, it's 'What the f—? What the f— is going on? What is happening?!'"
Stewart then drilled down into the specifics, going after Trump's leaked lewd comments from a 2005 Access Hollywood appearance and FBI Director James Comey reviving Clinton's email scandal with his vague letter last Friday.
"I thought when a guy comes off a bus and [says,] 'I'm going to grab her in the pussy,' then OK, we're done. The election is over," Stewart said, after claiming he thought the race was over "three weeks ago" when the Access Hollywood audio emerged. "Usually that is a signifier that we don't have to pay attention anymore."
"That had never happened before. Everyone thought that Truman was going to lose to Dewey until the finger-banging video came out," Stewart joked.
He went on to say he didn't even want to discuss such vile comments with an audience full of "nice people" and examined how the media (tried) to cover the tape.
"It broke the news," Stewart said. "The news didn't know what to do with … 'I was on her like a bitch. I can do anything. I can grab her in the pussy. I'm a star.'"
In fact, Stewart said he noticed that on CNN they at one point segued from airing the tape to two pundits asking, seriously, how this plays for the swing states of Pennsylvania and Ohio.
"As though like what they're saying is, 'Delaware, we know they love to be grabbed in the pussy,'" Stewart joked.
Like many other people, the comedian also took issue with Trump's defense of his comments being "locker room talk."
"It's not. I was in a locker room," he explained. "I played soccer. We do say terrible things, but when people cross a certain line — 'Yeah, I'm gonna f— that girl. Yeah, I'm gonna hold her down and f— her, even if she doesn't want it.' ... 'Hold on a second there. We're all just being disgusting, but I'm pretty sure that's a crime.'"
As for "sweet, dearest Hillary," Stewart said she could "taste" the presidency but "then the FBI jumps in, and all of a sudden there's a whole new thing ... and then it goes back to Anthony Weiner?"
With such a turn of events (and the involvement of Billy Bush and Weiner), Stewart predicted only one outcome: "It's a tie. And there's only one vote to be cast and suddenly they cut away. There's a white Bronco driving down the freeway. It's O.J. [Simpson]! O.J.'s out! He's in the white Bronco and, holy shit, he can't vote, he's a felon … who's in the car? Motherf—er, it's JonBenet Ramsey! She's alive and she gets out and she goes, 'Grab 'em in the pussy — that was it for me.'"
"This is insane," he went on. "As a writer, honestly, the first woman running for president and she's taken down by Bush and Weiner, like, that's just bad writing.
"After all the shit she took from her husband to have another guy's dick keep her from being president," Stewart joked, "Hillary Clinton is literally being cock-blocked."
But even though his comments were likely music to the ears of his fans, Stewart said he doesn't miss nightly political satire, maintaining that he's had his fill of the "bullshit" he railed against on his final show.
"I was a turd miner for 16 years," he said. "And you're telling me right now a shit asteroid just hit the earth. 'Don't you want to be digging through that?' No."
Stewart also shared his thoughts on Trump's claims of a "rigged system."
"Dude, you live in a tower with your name on it in gold," the comic pointed out. "How well would you be doing if the man wasn't keeping you down? Would you live on a cloud where angels blow you incessantly? How much better can your f—ing life be?"
Stewart devoted the remainder of his roughly 14-minute set to recalling his infamous Twitter war with Trump, which inspired the Republican presidential nominee's Daily Show nickname, "F—face Von Clownstick."
Reading off of notes, Stewart, who seemed to delight in the outrageousness of the episode, interjected things like, "I swear to God this is true, the man that will more than likely, given the FBI's preference, be our next president …" and "You remember, by the way, [Abraham] Lincoln used to get into this shit all the time."
He ended with some advice: "Vote wisely."
Despite the event taking place just a week before the election, the other comedians steered clear of political material in their routines. Before the show, Gaffigan said he hoped the evening would not only be a break from the election but also keep the focus on wounded veterans and their issues, which everyone was there to support.
"There's a part of me, as an American, that's like, why do we even have to do this? Shouldn't it be like a no-brainer? Shouldn't they fly first-class free?" he told The Hollywood Reporter, with his wife, Jeannie, adding, "Shouldn't people wake up every day and think about veterans?"
As for the election, Gaffigan said it was like a long-running TV series. "The election — it's amazing. Like, we all love the drama of it, but I feel like we're in season eight of a show and we're drawn in. We watch these shows and we're, like, 'I really got sick of this show in season four, but [now we want to] see what happens. See if there's a twist.'
Jeannie added, "We're thinking maybe someone's alien cousin is going to show up. Now that it's November. What's going to happen this week?"
Stand Up for Heroes, which kicks off the annual New York Comedy Festival, is presented by the NYCF and the Bob Woodruff Foundation.