They got the "wave" going from front to back of the crowd, got the ladies and guys to compete in a wave down the mall through the crowd that swelled from 3rd street in front of the Capitol past the Smithsonian castle and buzzed around the edges.
Stewart suggested that the only way to get an accurate count would be to "count off" one at a time by number and ethnicity. The count reached about three before Stewart and Colbert turned to other distractions like dancing around the stage with Ozzy Osbourne.
Voicing no real concern for any accurate numbers, Stewart thanked the crowd for showing up.
"Your presence is what I wanted," he told everyone late in the rally.
Regardless of the actual numbers, photos and accounts from the mall and the Metro showed packed streets and jammed subway cars and buses on what turned out to be a perfect fall day in Washington.
In fact, more than 350,000 had ridden metro before 3 p.m., a number typical for an entire Saturday.
The National Park Service does not provide attendance figures, at the direction of Congress. Comedy Central said on its event permit that it was expecting 60,000 people. But it ordered 500 port-a-potties, which, at a recommended ratio of 1 for every 300 attendees, suggests that they might have been expecting 150,000.
--Cross-posted from Blog Briefing Room.