Two of the more awkward phone interviews I have conducted over the years have been with Al Franken. Just lucky, I guess? But maybe, just maybe, Franken may have been tentative with me all of those years ago because he knew that someday, he'd become a U.S. Senator. That day, after months of legal wrangling over the votes and recounts from the 2008 election, has come today following a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, as incumbent Republican Norm Coleman conceded the race to Franken this afternoon. Congrats, Al. The Internet already is buzzing with comments referencing the catchphrase of Franken's Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smalley: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!"
Let's toast this moment in time, when a comedian and satirist has joined the U.S. Senate and is now a coworker with the targets he previously mocked, with a look back at some Al Franken moments.
Here is Franken on Letterman in 2007, after he announced his Senate campaign:
Here's Al Franken with SNL co-writer Tom Davis on Solid Gold doing The Rolling Stones!? With Franken as Mick Jagger?? Believe it.
How about Al Franken roasting Chevy Chase?
For some reason, though, anything involving Stuart Smalley, Franken's character who used self-affirmation to help himself and others -- most famously, perhaps on SNL, one Michael Jordan -- is not available to view online or is not embeddable. But NBC does have this "Church Lady" sketch with Al Franken playing televangelist/politician Pat Robertson...
Al Franken's senatorial campaign in Minnesota hit a setback yesterday when Franken announced he'd pay $70,000 in back taxes and penalties for reporting errors across 17 states. And that's just his best guess for the past few years. It's the latest in a string of business-related troubles for the satirist in his first major political foray.
The last time Al Franken was in Boston - Election Day 2004 - he and his Air America Radio crew were all set to celebrate with the Kerry-Edwards campaign.
That didn’t turn out so well. But the setting provided an apt way to open Franken’s new book, “The Truth (With Jokes),” in which he continues to bash the Bush administration and the Republican right in print as he does on the air.
Franken returns to the Hub on Tuesday for a live broadcast of “The Al Franken Show,” heard locally on WKOX-AM (1200) and WXKS-AM (1430) from noon to 3 p.m. weekdays, followed by a nighttime book signing at the Charles Hotel in Cambridge.
Is coming back bittersweet?
“No,” Franken said on the phone from New York City. “Just bitter.”
But the news isn’t all bad for the Harvard-educated satirist.
His opening hour is the most listened-to period on WKOX, and he continues to gain ground on his nemesis, Rush Limbaugh, among male listeners between 25 and 54.
“A lot of people come up to me and say I make them feel better, so they don’t feel alone,” Franken said. “I think now, actually now, I’m hearing from some Republicans who are listening to us and switching over.”
He is somewhat amazed by the GOP’s ability to have all their pundits and spokespeople say the same daily message points.
“I know that they’re proud of it,” he said. “I don’t know that I’d consider it something to be proud of. We’d like to be more unified in getting out our message and being more disciplined. But maybe Democrats cannot do that.”
Few, certainly, are willing to make jabs like this one on gay marriage in Franken’s book: “George W. Bush wants to amend our Constitution to make it illegal for gays to marry. But evidently, he has no problem with terrorists getting married. America can’t afford a president who is soft on terrorist marriage. Because unlike gays, terrorists can breed.”
Indicted Vice Presidential chief of staff “Scooter” Libby, a recent talk-radio subject, has a book out, too. Franken hasn’t read it.
“I don’t know,” Franken said. “I hear it’s a good book. Who am I to discredit another author?”
Well, what about Limbaugh?
“Uh, yeah. But he’s just awful,” Franken said.
Franken loves having three hours daily to express his political philosophy and bring a liberal approach to talk radio.
More Americans, though, talk about TV shows than politics.
“It’s shocking how little political literacy there is in this country,” Franken said.
He is supporting grassroots-level organizations that train activists, candidates and campaign managers - some of whom may be enlisted to help Franken run for the U.S. Senate in his native Minnesota. He’ll move back full-time early next year and broadcast his show from a Twin Cities studio.