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“All these service people, I’m so glad you’re here. I thought you’d be at the border,” Jon Stewart said, opening his set at the Stand Up For Heroes event at Madison Square Garden on Monday night. “There are thousands of sharecroppers coming at America at one to two miles an hour. They’ll be here by April. What are we going to do? Probably let them plant things.”
The 12th annual event launches the New York Comedy Festival and benefits the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which supports wounded veterans and their families. Stewart was joined by Seth Meyers, Jim Gaffigan, Jimmy Carr, Eric Church and Bruce Springsteen at this year’s edition of the event.
Woodruff, the ABC news correspondent who was injured in Iraq in 2006, and his wife, Lee, welcomed attendees, urging them to vote.
“The people in the front rows and those young cadettes that you’ll see in uniform who maybe have yet to be deployed overseas, they’re there to stand up for our rights,” Lee Woodruff told The Hollywood Reporter. “So we need to honor that right to vote and go tomorrow.”
Stewart got political with his routine, noting that he doesn’t dig into the news as often now that’s he’s not on TV anymore. “I don’t know how up on things you guys are, so I’m sort of trying to figure out where do I start, so I’m just going to start where I think is appropriate. Do you remember that show Celebrity Apprentice?” Stewart joked, opening up a conversation about gun violence, political correctness and redemption.
He told a story about how difficult it was for him to buy an AR-15, only to reveal that the vetting process he was going through was for adopting a cat, not buying a weapon. “I don’t understand how we’re not going to do anything,” Stewart said about the slew of mass shootings in the U.S. “You know, if other people kill us, we make you go to their place forever. It’s basically how Americans learn geography now. But if we kill each other, we do nothing.”
Stewart also addressed the #MeToo movement, noting that one guy told him that he couldn’t even smile at a woman anymore. “I think you can,” Stewart said. “But let me ask you, where is your dick when you’re smiling? The dick location seems to be the most pertinent part.”
Stewart remarked on how the world feels like a dark place right now and reflected on his experience in New York around 9/11, saying he thought things were never going to get better. Then he urged people to offer redemption to people who might have committed certain wrongs.
“Do we still give people the chance to be ignorant and to learn?” he said. “That’s what we have to do in this society. We have to give people the space to fuck up and learn and come back. I don’t care how woke you think you are, everybody sleeps sometimes.”
However, not everyone was as political as Stewart. Meyers told a story about how his wife gave birth to their second son in the lobby of their apartment building, while Gaffigan talked about the time he got his appendix removed while on vacation in Alaska.
“It doesn’t really affect what I do, because in some ways, whether you’re against Trump or for Trump, people go to see my stand-up as a break from it,” Gaffigan told THR. “I’m a total news junkie, but when I want a break from it, I don’t want it brought up.”
Comedian Jimmy Carr agreed. “There’s something about being a white, upper-class, privileged man from Europe,” he told THR. “I don’t think anyone needs my opinion. I think I’ve had a really good maybe 2,000 years. I’ve had a really good run of this. Politics-wise, it may be a great time to listen.”
However, he did open his set with something a little political. “I realize it’s divisive to talk about your president, because Donald Trump’s presidency has really divided public opinion,” Carr said. “Some people think he’s a breath of fresh air, and some people think he’s a fucking idiot. But one thing’s for sure: He’s a fucking idiot.”
The evening concluded with performances from Church and Springsteen. Church performed “Desperate Man,” “Hippie Radio” and “Standing Their Ground.” Springsteen, a regular performer at Stand Up for Heroes, performed a few songs in between jokes.
He opened with “This Hard Land” and then sang “If I Should Fall Behind” with his wife, Patti Scialfa. Church joined him onstage for “Working on the Highway,” and he closed his set with “Dancing in the Dark.”
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