It takes quite a lot of finesse to reinvent the fragile pomp and circumstance associated with Veteran’s Day. The national holiday may warrant a parade marching down 5th Avenue, but it goes largely unrecognized by most of Manhattan’s social circles. The annual Stand Up For Heroes benefit presented by the New York Comedy Festival and the Bob Woodruff Foundation, which bowed for its 9th year in a row last night, has broken the mold with a unique blend of comedy and music. The families who spearheaded the evening, Lee and Bob Woodruff and Caroline Hirsch with husband Andrew Fox, sat modestly amongst the middle rows of the sold-out, intimate theatre attached to Madison Square Garden. The first rows were aptly reserved for the decorated Veterans.
The show began with rounds of stand-up from TV favorites. Seth Meyers, Ray Romano, and John Oliver, all of whom looked well-dressed in their requisite suits, were the first to take the stage respectively. John Stewart, looking grey-haired and unshaven, appeared last. “I look like shit,” he admitted to the jeering crowd. Despite their hilarious anecdotes-Mr. Romano recounted the sex scenes he filmed for his upcoming HBO series Vinyl, and Mr. Oliver told of his post-game experience meeting his soccer idols in the nude at Yankee Stadium with Daniel Craig-The Prince of New Jersey, Bruce Springsteen, was the true highlight of the evening.
He played a brief set, finishing with “Dancing in The Dark.” The three song selection seemed on-the-fly. At one juncture, he swatted away a stagehand offering up his harmonica. Following his tunes, and a few bumper jokes from the scruffy Mr. Stewart, Mr. Springsteen was welcomed back as the driving force behind two auction lots up for bid.
The first was his own guitar, along with a pair of tickets to his next concert with The E Street Band and a behind-the-scenes tour of the concert facility. “You get to eat a lot of slop food with the band too,” Mr. Springsteen chimed in as he strummed on the signed guitar up for bid. Christie’s auctioneer extraordinaire, Lydia Fenet, did her best to squeeze a $220,000 offer out of the audience until the bidding plateaued. “I’ll throw in my mother’s lasagna,” Mr. Springsteen said in his gravely voice, still strumming. Bids skyrocketed to $370,000, and the lot sold twice. “The best things in life are free,” Mr. Springsteen sung quietly with a wry smile after the bidding war came to a close. He could have his mother’s lasagne anytime he wanted it.
The second lot, a Harley-Davidson Softail Slim S and a vintage leather jacket from Mr. Stringsteen’s closet, required a bit more prodding from the four guest comedians of the evening who exited from the backstage as the music legend slowly cruised out atop the bike. “Bruce Springsteen had this between his thighs not too long ago,” Ms. Fenet noted. “Still warm,” Mr. Stewart said, stroking the seat. “The ass print is still here,” Mr. Romano added. Hilarity ensued.
The four funny guys swirled around the bike, cracking jokes as bidding carried on, throwing in extra incentives along the way. Mr. Meyers offered his own tie, four tickets to a taping of The Late Show, and backstage cocktails. Mixers were not included. Ray Romano offered a bottle of Purel Hand Sanitizer from his breast pocket, and a trip to Las Vegas to see his next stand up performance with David Spade. Mr. Oliver offered his handkerchief, used for cleaning his glasses, and his shoplifting prowess. “I will shoplift something for you,” the Brit said. “Name something you want stolen and I’ll do it.” Mr. Stewart offered nothing but his humor. “I’ll come to the end of my driveway and say hey,” he said. Even Lorraine Bracco, who sat near the stage, threw in a pair of her own shoes worn in her iconic role as Karen Hill in Good Fellas. Ultimately the lot fetched $100,000, bringing the evening’s total to $840,000 raised on top of the $5 million in ticket sales for Stand up For Heroes.