John Stewart and Bill O'Reilly Prepare to Rumble

Eat some bread while enjoying the circus


For those who were let down by the first Presidential debate (a.k.a. the Rumble in the Rockies), there is hope for a kind of rhetorical redemption this weekend. On Saturday night, Jon Stewart and Bill O'Reilly will face off in a ninety-minute mock debate at George Washington University, in Washington, D.C. The event—modestly dubbed "The Rumble in the Air-Conditioned Auditorium"—sold out within a day; StubHub is offering tickets at prices up to fourteen hundred dollars. (The mock debate will also be streamed online for $4.95, with half of the proceeds going to charity.) At the Web site, a video boldly declares the event to be "why Al Gore invented the Internet." In an appearance on "Good Morning America" earlier this week, Stephen Colbert, the faux O'Reilly anchor and Stewart's former colleague, upped the stakes dramatically by predicting that Stewart would "eat Bill O'Reilly's liver."

Stewart and O'Reilly have developed a surprisingly endearing bromance over the past decade or so. Since 2001, they've made numerous appearances on each other's shows, and they seem to have a genuine mutual respect and admiration. According to Stewart, the idea for the debate came from O'Reilly: "I didn't have much of a choice… He just calls up and says: 'Stewart. O'Reilly. Debate.' " The two may share a similar perspective on political humor nowadays, but they've come to comedy from different starting places. Stewart always wanted to be a comedian. O'Reilly's ambition was to be a news anchor. Now they've met somewhere in the middle. Over the past decade, The New Yorker has run Profiles of both men, tracing their respective transformations.