'Restore Sanity' Rally Pits Viacom, News Corp.

NEW YORK ( TheStreet) -- Glenn Beck made his opening statement in Martin Luther King Jr.'s shadow, but The Daily Show's Jon Stewart and The Colbert Report's Stephen Colbert have prepared their rebuttal.

In direct response to News Corp.'s ( NEWS) Fox News and the "Restoring Honor" rally its pundit, Beck, led at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28 -- the 47th anniversary of King's iconic "I Have a Dream" speech for civil rights -- Viacom's ( VIA) Comedy Central and its comedic news duo scheduled a "Rally to Restore Sanity" for Oct. 30. Each faux-news anchor announced respective rallies on their shows last night after weeks of hinting and speculation.

Marketed as a giant "Moment of Zen" for Daily Show die-hards, the event inspired a manifesto on Comedy Central's website that characterizes it as "a rally for the people who've been too busy to go to rallies, who actually have lives and families and jobs (or are looking for jobs) -- not so much the Silent Majority as the Busy Majority." Without reference to Beck's crowd of between 80,000 and 650,000, Tea Party ralliers or vociferous town meeting attendees, the manifesto declares the rally as being "for the people who think shouting is annoying, counterproductive, and terrible for your throat; who feel that the loudest voices shouldn't be the only ones that get heard; and who believe that the only time it's appropriate to draw a Hitler mustache on someone is when that person is actually Hitler. Or Charlie Chaplin in certain roles."
The Daily Show With Jon Stewart Mon - Thurs 11p / 10c
Rally to Restore Sanity
Daily Show Full Episodes Political Humor Tea Party

Staying in character as a conservative blowhard, Colbert has dubbed his portion of the festivities "The March to Keep Fear Alive." Colbert, whose entire Colbert Report career has been a thumb in the eye to Fox News inspired by Fox pundit Bill O'Reilly, counters with his patented truthiness that "America, the Greatest Country God ever gave Man, was built on three bedrock principles: Freedom. Liberty. And Fear -- that someone might take our Freedom and Liberty." Though Colbert usually leaves Beck impersonations to Stewart, he channels conservative firebrand Ann Coulter when he reminds would-be marchers that "Reason" is just one letter away from "Treason."
The Colbert Report Mon - Thurs 11:30pm / 10:30c
March to Keep Fear Alive
Colbert Report Full Episodes 2010 Election Fox News

While a great potential revenue generator for Washington, D.C., and a pop culture ATM for Viacom, the Stewart and Colbert rallies could struggle to beat Beck's numbers. For one, the bug-eyed, blackboard-beating Beck is a powerhouse: He draws nearly 3 million viewers to his 5 p.m. show each night and overcame boycotts by UPS ( UPS), Wal-Mart ( WMT), CVS ( CVS), Best Buy ( BBY), Procter & Gamble ( PG), Verizon ( VZ) and others last year that resulted from him calling President Barack Obama a racist. Stewart and Colbert draw roughly half his audience but, according to Nielsen, nearly double Beck's numbers among viewers ages 25 to 54. The crowd may not be as big as Beck's, but it could be a lot more boisterous -- and could linger much later.

--Written by Jason Notte in Boston.

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Jason Notte is a reporter for TheStreet.com. His writing has appeared in The New York Times, The Huffington Post, Esquire.com, Time Out New York, the Boston Herald, The Boston Phoenix, Metro newspaper and the Colorado Springs Independent.