When Jon Stewart signed off as host of The Daily Show in early August he did so with a performance from Bruce Springsteen. On Tuesday night, two of New Jersey’s finest reunited at the 9th annual Stand Up for Heroes benefit for wounded veterans in New York.
Stewart and Springsteen are regular performers at Stand Up for Heroes, presented by the NY Comedy Festival and Bob Woodruff Foundation. But this year the event also gave Stewart the opportunity to weigh in on political events that have transpired since he left Comedy Central’s late-night program.
And Stewart delivered.
Taking the stage sporting a thick gray beard, Stewart quickly commented on how he’s no longer as clean-shaven as he was when he was doing The Daily Show.
“This is so exciting for you,” he began amid enthusiastic applause. “I can’t believe it: Jon Stewart’s grandfather is here!” he proclaimed.
“Look at me. Look what happened,” he continued. “I left TV two months ago. What the f— happened? I’m old as shit now. How long did it take Tom Hanks in Cast Away?”
Stewart joked that his Daily Show appearance was due to lighting, wardrobe and makeup trickery. “When you would see me on television, I would be in a suit. And I would have makeup on and the lighting would be done to make me seem appealing and somewhat youthful … Underneath this I am Bernie Sanders.”
But it wasn’t long before Stewart took up the man whose presidential candidacy he so delighted in covering during his last two months at The Daily Show: Donald Trump.
“Are we really doing this Donald Trump thing? We’re really doing that as a country?” he asked the audience in reference to the fact that the real-estate mogul is now not only still running for president but doing well in the polls.
“He’s f—ed,” Stewart continued. “I like to put my name in giant letters on everything I own as much as the next guy, but the only other people that do that are like 8-year-olds going to camp.”
And then he brought back the Trump impression Daily Show viewers are familiar with: “Where did I put that building? Oh there it is, Trump. Boom. Where’s my f—ing helicopter? Boom, Trump. … Where’s my wife? Boom, Trump, nice.”
Later he added, “It’s like an Internet comment troll ran for president.”
“People are like, ‘I like Trump; he says what he thinks.’ What he thinks is stupid,” Stewart said to loud laughter and applause. “That’s like if your friend is like, ‘I would like to f— your mom.’ Why would you say that? … I don’t give a shit if you’re politically correct, just be correct, correct.”
Stewart also weighed in on Ben Carson — whom Stewart joked thought of Trump, “That guy is f—ing crazy. Let me get a piece of that” — and the now-defunct possibility that Joe Biden would run for president. Stewart claimed the soft-spoken Carson has, “the greatest juxtaposition between volume of voice and craziness of shit he says.”
“He says the softest spoken crazy shit I’ve ever heard,” Stewart said. “You watch him in the debates: [Imitating Carson] ‘All I said was ObamaCare is like slavery … When I was young I nearly killed a nun with a … hammer.'”
As a segue to Biden, Stewart said, “We’re a year away from the presidency, and we’re already bored with the 25 people running. We’re like, ‘You know what would be great is if Biden ran?’ “
He continued: “Biden? Have you watched him during the State of the Union? It’s like watching a guy work a sales convention. The president is talking and the vice president is behind him like this: ‘Hey, boom,’ ‘Hey, sugar tits.’ ‘Oh, hey, what’s happening?’ ‘What’s going down?’ ‘Nice to see you.’ ‘What’s up, governor?’ ‘Boom.’ “
He also made a prediction about who’s going to be president.
“Hillary Clinton’s going to be president,” Stewart said to applause before cautioning, “Even if she loses, she will f—ing be president. She will not be denied.”
And he brought his call for gun-legislation reform to the packed Madison Square Garden theater.
“We don’t do shit about guns,” Stewart said. “I’m not trying to take people’s guns away. Let’s just be smart about it. But we won’t even f—ing talk about it. 30,000 people die each year: Suicides, homicides, guns. We don’t do shit. We don’t do anything. We don’t even say anything … You know what you need to buy a gun? Money. You know what you need to adopt a cat? … They will come to your f—ing house! Just to make sure it’s a safe environment for a cat.”
Stewart wasn’t the only one to talk politics. Both he and Seth Meyers noted that the event was taking place the same night as the most recent Republican debate. And Meyers offered a few jokes about the GOP field.
“My favorite thing about thinking about these GOP debates is thinking about campaigns preparing their candidates for going on stage with Donald Trump, because I imagine it’s the same way park rangers prepare campers for the possibility that they might see a bear…I guess he’s not really a bear; he’s more like an insane chimpanzee,” Meyers said, before launching into a bit imitating what campaign managers tell their candidates: ” ‘So you’re going to go out on stage, there’s going to be eight of you: seven regular candidates and a chimpanzee.’ ‘I’m sorry, did you say chimpanzee?’ ‘We did, don’t worry about that. You’ll have two minutes for an opening statement. You can talk for a minute after each question. Also, the chimpanzee will have a handgun duct-taped to himself and he’s addicted to crack.’ ‘I don’t think I want to be on stage with a chimpanzee that’s on crack.’ ‘Oh, he’s not on crack. He’s addicted to crack. We haven’t given him crack for weeks. And he’s in a terrible mood about it.’ ”
Ray Romano, on the other hand, devoted much of his set to jokes about his family and getting older, but he got a Trump quip in too.
“Here’s the thing, folks, when you have a TV show, and you will. Everyone’s going to get one. You’re all going to get a show. It’s going to be like jury duty. When President Trump gets elected, he’s going to make a law: you have to have a show,” Romano said.
John Oliver, meanwhile, upheld his promise not to talk about the 2016 election in 2015, instead joking about voting in Australia. Oliver claimed a recent study from Australia concluded that voting drunk “actually makes you more right wing.”
“I did not see that coming,” he said. “That’s against your popular understanding of the drunk man: ‘I love you! I bloody love you! But I cannot justify continued expenditure on the welfare state! You’re living in a dream world! It’s a lovely idea in theory, but it doesn’t work! People need incentives.’ “
On the red carpet earlier, Oliver wouldn’t reveal how Last Week Tonight will cover the election in 2016, when he’s said he feels it’s time to cover the process, merely telling The Hollywood Reporter, “I’ll do it next year.”
He also confirmed that even though it sounded silly, he really did decide to shut down his televangelist church Our Lady of Perpetual Exemption simply because the Last Week Tonight office started receiving sperm in the mail.
“It was around the fourth vial of sperm that we decided to shut that shit down,” he told THR. “The church is over.”
But he said he could still re-launch it.
“The beauty is nothing has changed in terms of the regulation of it, so we can start it up again whenever we want,” he said.
Springsteen performed a few songs, including “Working on the Highway” and “Dancing in the Dark.” And he told a number of dirty jokes that also made it clear to the audience that the acclaimed musician shouldn’t quit his day job. And, as he did last year, he auctioned off a signed guitar, throwing in a number of perks, including his mother’s lasagna. The two winning bids totaled $740,000, topping the $300,000 Springsteen raised last year.
While some performers like Stewart and Springsteen are regulars at Stand Up for Heroes, Ray Romano and Seth Meyers were new additions this year.
Stand Up for Heroes co-founder Caroline Hirsch explained of Romano, “We had asked him for a long time to do it, but being in L.A. he couldn’t come in for it, so now he is here and he did it, so we’re really happy about that.”
When asked if there are any comedians who haven’t been a part of the benefit that are on her wish list, Hirsch said, “I always wanted David Letterman to come, but that just never worked out. But maybe now that he has a little down time, now that he’s not taping his show…”
Perhaps Romano, who has said his 1995 appearance on The Late Show changed his career, could make that happen.