Chicagoans trying to restore sanity

By Meghan Keyes

Jon Stewart, host of “The Daily Show,” defined his movement: “Ours is 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. If we had to sum up the political view of our participants in a single sentence … we couldn’t. That’s sort of the point.”

The main “Rally to Restore Sanity” will take place on Oct. 30 in Washington, D.C., but a group of Chicagoans are planning a satellite event in Grant Park on the same evening without the show’s endorsement or support.

The rally was announced during Stewart’s program on Sept. 16, and Stephen Colbert, host of “The Colbert Report,” also announced a “March to Keep Fear Alive” simultaneously as a counter to the rally.

There are approximately 40 different satellite rallies being planned, according to Chicago’s event coordinator Angie McMahon. She is also the founder of Chemically Imbalanced Comedy. McMahon said she has produced other events, but nothing on this scale.

“I honestly didn’t think it was going to be this big,” McMahon said. “Maybe a couple hundred people, but it grew really fast.”

McMahon expects 5,000 people. The rally received a conditional permit, which means it is approved for using Grant Park as long as it comes up with the money required. There is a $5,000 security deposit as well as an estimated $1,600 for insurance, but they hope to raise $30,000. There are various other costs for an event, such as getting a live broadcast of the D.C. rally. Donations are accepted online through and PayPal.

“We are getting $500 to $1,000 a day,” McMahon said. “People are just donating blindly, not knowing who I am, trusting I’m going to do the right thing. Some of the comments I’ve gotten have been great. A 96-year-old woman donated and said this means a lot to her. A college student donated $3 and wished [he or she] could give more.”

McMahon said she stepped up because no one else did and because she had experience with event planning. Traci Perrelli is assisting in planning and said she was just a fan.

“I was interested because on a basic level, I’m a fan of Jon Stewart and ‘The Daily Show,’” Perrelli said. “But what he tied into it, some of the frustration I feel with the state of politics and addressing things to real Americans brought it all home for me. It went from entertainment to reality.”

Besides money, the volunteer group faces the problem of a deadline.

“Events like this are planned in six months,” McMahon said. “So far, the city has been responsive, a little hectic but supportive. I feel rushed, and I’ve never done anything like this before.”

Perrelli agreed, citing time and responsibility as the biggest challenge for her.

“This whole thing is about people who don’t have time [to protest] … so that’s as important as getting to work and getting the kids to school and living our individual responsibilities.”

The volunteers are also looking for sponsors but have yet to find any. They have speakers arranged, from local politicians to LGBT groups, as well as Greg Hollimon from “Strangers With Candy” and Michael Patrick Thornton from “Private Practice.”

Comedy Central had no comment other than that all future announcements will be made on the show. McMahon said she has been in contact with the network and thinks it will offer some support, not necessarily monetary, but it is aware of the satellite events.

The overall attitude of the “Rally to Restore Sanity: Chicago” is positive and optimistic, as seen on the Facebook group and event page.

“People are real here [in Chicago]. Once they say they’re going to do something, they follow through with it,” Perrelli said. “I think that seems to be part of why we’re anchored in this area … I don’t know if it’s the Midwest, but there’s this idea [that] you put your nose to the grindstone and you get things done.”

As of press time, the group had eclipsed $5,000.

As Jon Stewart said in his announcement, “If you’d rather stay home, go to work, or drive your kids to soccer practice. .. Actually, please come anyway. Ask the sitter if she can stay a few extra hours, just this once. We’ll make it worth your while.”