NEW YORK | Bruce Springsteen teamed up with country star Eric Church on a version of “Working on the Highway” and Jon Stewart laced into Donald Trump at a bawdy event Monday in New York that gathered comedians and musicians to help raise money for military veterans.
Springsteen, a vocal critic of several White House policies, avoided politics completely at the Stand Up for Heroes show, instead offering a few off-color jokes and four songs, including “Dancing in the Dark,” ”The Hard Land” and “If I Should Fall Behind” with his wife, Patti Scialfa.
The Boss, in jeans, a white shirt and a jean jacket, was returning to the event now in its 12 year, having been the musical guest since the beginning. Last year, the Red Hot Chili Peppers took his spot as he worked on his one-man “Springsteen on Broadway.”
Stand Up for Heroes is co-presented by the Bob Woodruff Foundation and the New York Comedy Festival. It kicks off the festival and raises money for the Woodruff foundation, which funds programs for injured veterans and their families. The foundation is named for the ABC news anchor injured in Iraq in 2006. It raised over $5.4 million at the event, held at the 6,000-seat Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden.
Stewart, also a veteran of the event, opened his set ridiculing the notion that America faced a threat from thousands of Central American migrants traveling northward in a caravan. “I’m so scared,” he said. “There’s thousands of sharecroppers coming at America at 1 to 2 miles per hour. They’ll be here by April.”
Jimmy Carr, a British comedian, hit the stage with mostly blue, edgy material, but had some jokes at the expense of the commander in chief. “Walls work,” he deadpanned. “I was in China last year. I didn’t see one Mexican.”
But the other comedians on the bill stayed away from politics, despite the event being held on the eve of divisive midterm elections. Last year’s event was more political, with comics such as John Oliver and Trevor Noah attending.
This time, Jim Gaffigan poked fun at his able girth and told a story about having his appendix removed in Alaska and then going for a hike when he and his family encountered a bear. “I looked at the tour guide. He said, ‘Don’t worry, I have bear spray.’ I was like, ‘Do you have anything stronger?'”
Seth Meyers returned to a very personal source of material, namely the birth of his children. For his first, his wife was in so much discomfort that she was on her hands and knees in the back of an Uber on their way to the hospital with her head out the window, screaming, “I do not like this.” Myers noted: “In New York City, nobody blinked an eye.”
Church played three songs, including “Desperate Man,” ”Hippie Radio” and the unreleased “Still Standing Their Ground.” He strapped on a guitar to join Springsteen on “Working on the Highway.”
The audience also cheered dozens of servicemen and servicewomen from Iraq and Afghanistan who were seated in the first few rows. “These wars are not over,” Woodruff said. “There is still a need for our mission and there will be that need for years to come.” He and his wife also urged everyone to vote on Tuesday.
Mark Kennedy is at http://twitter.com/KennedyTwits