After a dozen years, the annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit has settled into a steady rhythm that consistently makes it one of the most entertaining benefit shows of the year. With the exception of last year when it conflicted with his Broadway schedule, Bruce Springsteen has played every one since it began in 2007 and he’s always joined by some of the biggest names in comedy. This year that meant Jon Stewart, Seth Myers, Jim Gaffigan and Jimmy Carr. If that wasn’t enough to move tickets, this year they put Eric Church on the bill as well. All the proceeds go to the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which has given over $57 million to wounded veterans and their families.
It was an evening of hysterical jokes, moving tributes to true American heroes and amazing duets. Here are the eight best moments.
1. Seth Meyers talks childbirth.
This past April, Seth Meyers’ wife Alexi went into labor so quickly that she couldn’t even make it out of their New York apartment building. She actually gave birth on the floor of the lobby. The story generated a lot of headlines and it was the centerpiece of Meyers’ 10-minute standup routine. “Our relationship with the two doormen is now massively different,” he said. “One of the doormen, Raoul, now feels like he is family because he witnessed this incredible moment. Kevin, on the other hand, cannot make eye contact with either of us. Kevin is giving us a real ‘I’ve-seen-your-wife’s-vagina’ vibe.”
2. Jimmy Carr slays the room.
British comedian Jimmy Carr didn’t seem to be familiar to many in the crowd at the Hulu Theater at Madison Square Garden when he took the stage, but his set of filthy one-liners had the place rolling very, very quickly. Judging by sheer volume and consistency of laugher, he was the biggest hit of the night. Here’s a tiny sampling of the jokes: “Backseat drivers are all the same. They’re all like, ‘Why are we going to the woods? Please let us go.'” “My best friend’s wife is having a baby and I said to him, ‘What do you want? A boy or a girl?’ He thought about it and said, ‘I wanted a blowjob.'” “The thing all men like about blowjobs is nothing sexual, it’s the peace and quiet. If you’ve ever been going down on a guy and he’s going ‘awww’ that’s not your technique, that is the sound of a man not being asked a question.'”
3. Jim Gaffigan lays off the food jokes.
Gaffigan is a regular presence at Stand Up for Heroes and most years he makes cracks about his weight and heinously unhealthy eating habits, but this time he spent much of his set talking about his recent emergency appendectomy while on vacation in Alaska. “I was airlifted, which was embarrassing,” he said. “I’m like, you want to be airlifted if you’re dealing with a natural disaster or a wounded soldier. I was a fat guy with a tummy ache. The helicopter pilot was like, ‘Your stomach hurts? Do you know how much it costs to rent a helicopter?’ During that entire flight I sat there holding my stomach and praying, ‘Please don’t let this be gas. Sweet Jesus, don’t let this be gas. If it’s gas, I’ll never be able to return to my family.'”
4. Jon Stewart avoids politics.
Just one day before the midterms, it felt inevitable that Stewart’s set would be a torrent of political jokes. After all, he hasn’t had The Daily Show to vent his rage in years and this seemed like a great outlet for that. Instead, he talked about his recent overseas trips to entertain the troops and another journey to Scandinavia on a comedy tour. “The people there are very good looking,” he said. “I’ve never wanted to fuck a region before. It fucked me up a little. Look, I’ll be honest with you. I’m no Hitler fan. I’m a Jewish guy. But after being in Scandinavia, I kinda get what he was going for … cheekbone-wise.”
5. Eric Church unplugs.
After a Christie’s representative came out and managed to get the crowd to fork over an astounding $427,000 in just seven minutes, Eric Church took the stage to thunderous applause. Playing just an acoustic guitar, he began the set with the title track to his new album Desperate Man and then followed it up with “Hippie Radio,” which was inspired by childhood car trips where his father sang along to Kansas and Warren Zevon songs on the radio. He wrapped up his brief set with the unreleased song “Standing Their Ground,” a tribute to American soldiers. “When I go to bed at night I think about those people that are in foreign wars and they are standing on lines and defending lives because our world is defined by those lines,” he said. “This song is called ‘Standing Their Ground’ because that is what they do.”
6. Bruce Springsteen tells not one, but two penis jokes.
Every year at Stand Up for Heroes, Bruce Springsteen tries his best to be a comedian and usually does at least a somewhat competent job. His first joke involved a man who writes beautiful songs with odd titles like “Hot Tits and Ass on a Saturday Night” and “My 10-Year-Old Son Is Addicted to Porn.” He gets booked to play a wedding on the condition that he not say the names of the songs in his set. “It goes over like gangbusters and people were in tears,” Springsteen said. “He takes a break to go to the bathroom, take a leak and comes out. The mother of the bride comes up and on the way out he forgot to zip himself up. The mother says to him, ‘Sir, do you know that your penis is hanging out of your pants?’ ‘Do I know it? I wrote it!'”
The next one was significantly filthier. It’s about a man whose wife has a voracious sexual appetite. He’s worried she’s going to cheat on him when he goes out of town, so he visits a gypsy woman. She sells him a ‘voodoo penis’ that’s essentially a magic dildo that works via voice commands. You simply tell it what to do and it obeys, but it won’t stop until you tell it to go somewhere else. (This featured the extremely bizarre sight of Bruce Springsteen uttering the phrase “voodoo penis, my pussy” in front of thousands of people.) The woman doesn’t know the command to make it stop and after a while gets so freaked out she jumps in the car and drives to a hospital. “She gets up to 90 miles per hour,” Springsteen said. “Finally she gets stopped by a police officer. He goes, ‘Lady, what in the hell are you doing?’ She goes, ‘Officer, you don’t understand. There’s a voodoo penis under this housecoat.’ The officer goes, ‘Voodoo penis? Voodoo penis my ass!'”
7. Springsteen duets with Eric Church and Patti Scialfa.
After a solid year of singing ‘Brilliant Disguise” and “Tougher Than the Rest” night after night on Broadway, Springsteen and his wife Patti Scialfa seemed delighted at the opportunity to break out “If I Should Fall Behind.” It was a beautiful, tender version where they swapped lines back and forth. When it was done, Scialfa left and Eric Church came out for a rollicking rendition of “Working on the Highway.” This would have been a great chance for them to play Church’s 2011 hit “Springsteen,” but maybe that would have been just a little too weird and meta.
8. A Broadway auction.
Most years, Stand Up For Heroes ends with rich Springsteen fans frantically bidding against each other to win a personal guitar lesson and a visit to Bruce’s house to try his mother’s homemade lasagna. This time, perhaps a little sick of bringing randos into his house and trying to teach them guitar, he merely directed fans to a website to bid on primo Springsteen on Broadway tickets, a signed guitar and a backstage visit. (No lasagna this time.) Click here for more info.