Nine years ago, ABC news anchor Bob Woodruff – who was wounded by a roadside bomb in Iraq in January of 2006 and spent 36 days in a medically induced coma – coaxed Bruce Springsteen, Conan O'Brien, Lewis Black and Robin Williams into performing at New York's Town Hall to raise funds for wounded veterans. He's kept the event going every year since, moving it to the considerably larger Theater at Madison Square Garden and raising nearly $33 million for the Bob Woodruff Foundation in the process. It's the only event of the year where the biggest names in comedy come together to do 15-minute sets before giving the stage over to Bruce Springsteen for an acoustic show and some groan-inducing jokes. This year's event (which kicked off the New York Comedy Festival) was the 10th consecutive one. Here are eight highlights.
1. Jon Stewart Rips Into Donald Trump
Jon Stewart has been off The Daily Show for 15 months now, and those have just happened to be the 15 craziest months in American political history. He's had very few outlets to vent his fury over the situation, so after opening remarks by Bob and Lee Woodruff and a rendition of the "National Anthem" by American Idol's Phillip Phillips, he went to town. "I thought we were done three weeks ago when a guy comes off a bus and says, 'Grab her by the pussy,'" he said. "I thought, 'OK, we're done! The election is over!' Usually that is a signifier that we don't have to pay attention anymore. One of the people in the race said they were going to grab somebody by the pussy! And so we don't have to watch anymore. Obviously, everyone thought that Truman was going to lose to Dewey until the finger-banging video came out." Near the end, he read an actual 2013 Twitter exchange with Trump where he called him "Fuckface van Clownstick" after the Republican presidential candidate essentially accused him of being ashamed of his Jewish heritage. "That seemed to hit a fuckface van nervestick," he said. "Please vote wisely this November."
2. Jim Gaffigan Sticks With the Fat Guy Jokes
Just like it would be impossible to imagine Jon Stewart not centering his set around the presidential election, it would be impossible to imagine Jim Gaffigan not centering his set around junk food and his big belly. This is tried-and-true material, and when you just have 15 minutes and an audience waiting for Bruce Springsteen, you gotta do what works. His funniest story was about a time airport security searched one of his suitcases that had an enormous box of Krispy Kreme donuts inside. "I wanted to say I had drugs in my butt because a cavity search at that moment seemed less humiliating," he said. "It looked like I was smuggling donuts. And since I wheeled it through the airport, all the donuts were crammed and smushed to one end. It looked like I rummaged through a dumpster."
3. Louis C.K. Reminisces About Conceiving His Daughter
Most comedians work pretty clean at Stand Up for Heroes, but Louis C.K. is always an exception. In his filthy set, he got into hysterically graphic detail about impregnating his ex-wife and then watching doctors perform a caesarean section nine months later. No moment of the night had the crowd laughing harder. "My wife got pregnant immediately, the first time," he said. "And I knew it while we were fucking because I came a lot. I was like, 'Shit, I really upped my odds just now. I shot a lot of dice into this lady and there's probably a seven in there somewhere.' It was a lot of cum. It felt like a lot, but it was probably just a few milliliters, like enough to enough to fill an applicator on a Children's Tylenol, like a four-year-old's dose of Children's Tylenol is how much I came in my wife." The guy doesn't sell out multiple nights at basketball arenas for no reason.
4. Jerry Seinfeld Complains About 21st-Century Parenting Practices
Jerry Seinfeld talked about fatherhood from a very different perspective in a bit that was about 900 times cleaner than Louis C.K.'s set. In a stellar routine he's been fine-tuning for years, he complained about what a hassle it's become to simply put his children to bed. "It's a Royal Jubilee Silver Centennial that takes place," he said. "The bathroom is a brushing, flossing and plaque-rinse ceremony and to the bedroom for the pillow arrangement and blanket adjustment and stuffed animal semi-circle of emotional support. I gotta read each kid eight different moron books before they go to bed. Do you know what my bedtime story was? Darkness! My favorite character was the complete absence of light!"
5. Bruce Springsteen Unplugs
After spending the past few weeks criss-crossing the globe for a book tour that involved little more than standing still for hours at a time while hundreds of fans lined up for selfies, Bruce Springsteen was probably eager to pick up a guitar and actually play music again. As is tradition at Stand Up for Heroes, he played four songs completely acoustic. The mini set kicked off with a rollicking "Working on the Highway" that went into a tender "I'll Work for You Love" and then a passionate "Long Walk Home." The latter song was probably inspired by the upcoming election, and Springsteen took extra care with the lines "Your flag flyin' over the courthouse/Means certain things are set in stone/Who we are, what we'll do and what we won't." The Boss' segment wrapped up with a spirited "Dancing In The Dark," though the couple of fans that tried to get an "oh-eh-oh" chant going were disappointed. This wasn't a crowd familiar with all the Springsteen concert traditions.
6. Bruce Tells His Annual Jokes
One constant at every Stand Up for Heroes is Springsteen's attempt at comedy. We present his three jokes without any commentary.
Joke one: "So there's this 80-year-old couple. They're in an alley up against the fence and they're screwing like crazy. I mean, arms are flying, legs are flying, and they're screwing and screwing and screwing. They just fall down from exhaustion and the wife says, 'You didn't screw me like that 50 years ago!' The man says, '50 years ago that fence wasn't electrified.'"
Joke two: "An old man is in the gym. This great-looking gal comes in, a young gal. He says to his trainer, 'Quick, quick, quick, which one of these machines should I be on to get this girl's attention?' He goes, 'Well, if I were you, it would be the ATM.'"
Joke three: "Three guys are going skiing. They forget to make the reservation and get up to the ski lodge. The person behind the desk says, 'Look, all we got is a small room with a single bed.' 'No problem, we'll take it, we'll take it.' They throw their bags in and they all hop into one single bed, one, two, three. They sleep and the next morning they wake up. Guy on one side says, 'Wow, I had a dream last night I was getting a hand job.' The other on the other side says, 'You're kidding me. I had a dream last night I was getting a hand job.' The guy in the middle goes, 'I had a dream last night I was skiing.'" (He then simulated the act of skiing down a mountain, which looked a lot like giving two simultaneous hand jobs.)
7. Big Money Comes Out for Springsteen's Guitar
A replica of Springsteen's famous Born to Run Fender Esquire guitar sat onstage during his whole set, and when the performance wrapped he picked it up and an auctioneer emerged to sell it to the highest bidder. Springsteen played generic blues riffs on the instrument as the bids grew to $120,000. When they slowed down, he sweetened the pot by offering to take the winner and three friends on a two-hour trip in his Cadillac from his house to the Jersey Freeze in Freehold, New Jersey, for a dinner of hot dogs and hamburgers. At $240,000 he threw in his mother's lasagna. That was enough to elicit a winning bid of $280,000 from a fellow named Dan. That's some pricey lasagna.
8. The Evening Wraps With a Harley Auction
Before the guitar/hamburger/lasagna auction, the house shelled out a combined $770,000 for the veterans. That's over a million dollars total for the night, but there was still one more surprise to come when all four comedians returned to the stage and Springsteen drove back out on a Harley. The crowd was a little tapped by this point, but with the comics egging the place on, and pledging $50,000 apiece of their own money, they eventually added another $350,000 to the night's tally. For those counting, that's $1,400,000. It'll be tough to top that next year, but if Bruce thinks of some more food to feed the high bidders on their magical New Jersey day together, it might happen.
Find out five things we learned from Bruce Springsteen's memoir 'Born To Run'. Watch here.