by: Michael Shields ((Photo by Kevin Mazur/Getty Images for The Bob Woodruff Foundation.))
A star-studded evening where the true guests of honors were the soldiers who have given so much to the country they served…
Last evening the Theater at Madison Square Garden hosted a comedic and musical tribute to injured veterans and their families from all across the country. The 10th annual Stand Up For Heroes charity event, run by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and presented by the New York Comedy Festival, featured an all-star lineup of comedians (Jerry Seinfeld, Louis C.K., Jim Gaffigan, John Stewart) and a closing performance by rock heavyweight Bruce Springsteen. But while the power-packed line-up had the sold-out crowd captivated all evening long, the true guests of honors were the soldiers, announced and heralded by name, who have given so much to the country they served.
To commence the evening’s festivities, Bob Woodruff and his wife heartfully explained to the crowd how Bob Woodruff Foundation (BWF) was established in 2006 after Bob, an ABC war correspondent, was critically injured by a roadside bomb while covering the war in Iraq. Since then, the Bob Woodruff Foundation has led a passionate call to action for people to stand up for heroes and respond to the critical long term-needs of today’s veterans.
Former Daily Show host Jon Stewart was the first comedian to pay tribute to the vets with jokes, or in his case, scathing political satire. On the cusp of an election, one featuring two highly scandalized candidates, Stewart held no punches, displaying a deep-seated exasperation with the the current political landscape on the eve, he quipped, “of the last ever American election.” Detailing a Twitter war he waged with Donald Trump (“Lincoln used to get into this shit all the time”), Stewart mocked the Republican candidate’s lack of restraint and urged the crowd, before taking his final bow, “to vote wisely this November 8.”
The comics that followed veered away from politics with their routines, focusing rather on the everyday curiosities in life. Jim Gaffigan’s self-deprecating brand of humor was a welcome respite from Stewart’s political commentary, as he bounced from jokes about the lack of necessity for a belt for overweight people (“These pants aren’t going anywhere!”), to gloating about how he has kept his New Year’s Resolution thus far of eating pasta every single day, before segueing into a confession that his role models are the bedridden grandparents in Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. Louie C.K. followed Gaffigan, and was equally self-mocking, explaining that he agreed to have a child just to avoid getting yelled at by his then-wife, and closing with a bit that doubled as an ode to underappreciated and underpaid New York Public School teachers.
Jerry Seinfeld was the final comedian to take the stage, and true to form he waxed nostalgic on the little things in life. Lamenting on the pains of going out (“nobody wants to be anywhere”), how fancy dinners are nothing compared to “a bowl of Lucky Charms and a Pepsi,” and the difficulties he endures putting his kids to bed (“you know what my bedtime story was…darkness!”), Seinfeld had the crowd in stitches, setting the stage for Bruce Springsteen to send the crowd home delightfully entertained. Springsteen performed an acoustic four song set which included hits such as “Working on the Highway” and “Dancing in the Dark,” and before concluding he found time to auction off one of his electric guitars, raising $280,000 for the Bob Woodruff Foundation.
As laughter echoed throughout the Theater at Madison Square Garden all evening, and thunderous applause was showered upon “The Boss,” the event remained true to the spirit of the Bob Woodruff Foundation. Continuously, the veterans and their loved ones, all sitting in the front rows, were celebrated, fashioning a fitting tribute that was as emotional as it was hilarious.