Rangers fans knew something was different last night at MSG: women in high heels and eye-popping jewelry and men who looked like they were practicing their best slick-backed Patrick Bateman routines were mingling with the blue-shirted crowds at the front of the venue. Although everyone was squeezed together, the Rangers hadn't suddenly found a foothold in the upper crust—the Theater at MSG (located under the main arena) was host to the eighth annual Stand Up For Heroes, a charity event for veterans presented by the New York Comedy Festival and Bob Woodruff Foundation. And it featured a showcase of some of the finest stand-up comedians in the world (as well as the world's greatest Boss).
It was especially interesting seeing the contrasting styles of the four main comedians, Jon Stewart, Jim Gaffigan, John Oliver and Louis C.K.; everyone except C.K. was given about 10 minutes (C.K. got 15-20), which made for condensed but focused sets (for the most part). After a series of introductions by hosts Lee and Bob Woodruff, self-proclaimed "shmuck" Stewart took the stage to riff on Halloween with his family and the Midterm elections (he emphasized the word "skullfuck"). As loveable as Stewart is as a host and interviewer on The Daily Show, his act seemed more like a light warm-up for the comedians who followed.
Gaffigan had the tightest set of the evening, with most of the jokes centered around weight and eating issues. He talked about the phenomenon of "fatting out of jeans," the embarrassment of carrying suitcases full of donuts at the airport, and Jesus' skills at making pretzel bread. Oliver was up next, and seemed to hit all the right notes for the audience; his set included jokes about the "comfortable racism" in Australia and the amount of money Americans spend on animal costumes ("You cannot send a bigger fuck you than that"). He left the room in hysterics with his final bit about living in NYC during Hurricane Sandy and seeing people jet ski in NY Harbor (he also, it turns out, is very fond of cursing; he said "fucking" more than everyone else combined).
C.K.'s set was much more sprawling in comparison, a mix of old and new jokes; after taking out his belly for the audience, he dug into his often brilliant observations about aging, parenting and disgusting sex acts. Perhaps because of the seriousness of the event, he seemed in an extra filthy mood, and couldn't help but make weird noises and strange accents. Two of the best parts of the night revolved around him noting, "The noise I make when I cum is now the noise I make when I pee," and later on, demonstrating how to make a "girl rat" cum.
Brian Williams introduced the surprise guest of the night, General Martin Dempsey, Commander of the Joint Chiefs Of Staff. He won over the crowd easily with a surprisingly solid version of "New York, New York." The next guest was Captain Derek Herrera, a soldier who had been shot in the spine and paralyzed from the chest down; he showed off a truly incredible, just-FDA-approved exoskeleton that helps him walk. Interestingly, Herrera was the only veteran who was brought on stage during the evening.
After a Christie's auctioneer spent 15-20 minutes getting people to donate (C.K. and Gaffigan donated $50K each), The Boss stepped out and did what he does best: tell Dad jokes about Viagra. Springsteen, who has been the headliner for the event in the past couple years, crammed every corny sex joke he could in between his five song set (sometimes he even told the jokes in the middle of the songs). He played "Working On A Highway," "Growin' Up" (with the audience singing the chorus), "If I Should Fall Behind" with wife Patti Scialfa, a very mournful 12-string guitar version of "Born In The USA," and a wonderful acoustic rendition of "Dancing In The Dark."
You can see some videos of his entire performance below.
The night ended with The Boss still on stage, auctioning off some of his guitars, guitar lessons, and even a pasta dinner at his house, all while noodling around on guitar on "Mystery Train." At one point he said he would even let the winner ride in the sidecar of his motorcycle with him.