Cheers, hoots and applause echoed in the nearly sold-out 275-seat movie theater in Rochester, N.Y., where Glenn Beck and Bill O'Reilly fans gathered to watch a broadcast of the duo on their national Bold and Fresh tour. Beck opened solo, with a routine that within the first six minutes started in on the State of the Union address President Obama had delivered the Wednesday before. "It was fantastic, so let me start with something nice," Beck said, then paused, staring blankly at the audience. "O.K., give me a minute, I'll think of something." The crowd roared. Likening Vice President Joe Biden and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to "Ren and Stimpy, or Beavis and Butt-head" simply wasn't enough. Pelosi's plastic surgery, he says, must be getting to the point where "it must hurt when she blinks."
Though the screening was a taped performance rather than the planned live simulcast from Norfolk, Va. (an event postponed by bad weather), energy levels in the audience were high. One audience member waved a bumper sticker that read, "Glenn Beck. American Hero."
Describing the U.S. as being turned "upside down," Beck said in the taped appearance, "This is not a country that I recognize as America. It's not going to last, because Americans are not this stupid." The crowd erupted in deafening cheers. When he described Sarah Palin as a character "so many people gravitate toward because she's real," one woman in the theater called out, "Yeah, she is!" Several heads outfitted with Bold and Fresh baseball caps bobbed up and down in agreement.
After a solid half-hour, he gave up the stage to Bill O'Reilly, but not before calling the audience to join him at the Lincoln Memorial on Aug. 28 to show Washington that something needs to be done. The words resonated with Scott Hand, 39, a delivery driver from Rochester: "I'm on edge. It's time to go to Washington and stomp my foot on the ground and say, 'Hey, quit spendin' my money, our money.'"
During his solo, O'Reilly took shots at the usual suspects for example, boiling down a New Hampshire appearance by then presidential hopeful Hillary Clinton to a billowing, giant pantsuit. O'Reilly talked about the ACLU's filing for CIA documents under FOIA. ("You know, they basically want to tell the enemy about everything we do," he says.) Mere mention of the ACLU pumped up hecklers a collective groan was spiced with a man calling out, "F___ them!"
At the end of the two-hour show, Beck and O'Reilly finally appeared together to banter lightly. Audience members ranged from 30-somethings to retirees. Steve Davio, 55, a scientist from the Rochester area, watches The O'Reilly Factor nearly every night. The current "progressive agenda, [with] each incremental step, takes us further and further from an America of self-reliance, land of the free and the home of the brave," he says. "It makes us the land of the weak and the home of the helpless."
Ray Winthrop, 56, from Chili, N.Y., who works for the state's Department of Transportation, says he agrees with Beck's and O'Reilly's concerns over too-big government. "'We the people' that's the Constitution, not 'we the government,'" he says. "We're the ones who run the country." Martin Michaels, 53, a former electrician, attended with his wife of 28 years, Sarah, who gushed, "Oh gosh, yes," saying she was a huge fan of both Beck and O'Reilly. "They're honest and they're real, and they report everything. They don't leave things out." Her husband lumbered around in a black T-shirt with "F___ You Obama" emblazoned in large, white capital letters. Why such strong sentiments? "I don't think he's good for the country. I think he's going to ruin it," he says.