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Discussion in 'General Discussion' started by Stephanie, Sep 10, 2006.

  1. Stephanie

    Stephanie Diamond Member Supporting Member

    Jul 11, 2004
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    September 10, 2006 -- AT one time, the notion of "Senator Al Franken" would have seemed as off-the-wall as "Secretary of Defense Stuart Smalley." But lately, the notion of the Harvard-educated humorist and best-selling author taking a seat in Congress has no one laughing. A new film opening Wednesday by acclaimed documentary filmmakers Chris Hegedus and Nick Doob, "Al Franken: God Spoke," follows the political exploits of the former "Saturday Night Live" performer and current Air America radio host.
    "God Spoke" relives Franken's battles with Bill O'Reilly and other conservative pundits, his key role in the launch of Air America and his recent decision to explore his candidacy for a Minnesota Senate seat in 2008. Numerous actors have held public office, but if Franken runs and wins, he'll become the first American comedian to do so - possibly paving the way for a Stewart/Colbert ticket in 2012.

    Q: Are you definitely running for the Senate in 2008?

    A: No, not definitely. I've been doing almost everything I should do if I were going to run, so that if I decide to, I will not have not done those things. I'm constantly thinking about the pros and cons, but I don't have to decide for a while.what the heck did he just say there????

    Q: What are some of the factors in this decision?

    A: Can I win? Would I be the best candidate? My family. Serving in the Senate is tremendously demanding on your time. It's a great job but maybe not a great life. Then there's also, can I do more good continuing to do Air America?

    Q: If you win, is the comedian side of you pretty much gone?

    A: No. After 30, 35 years, however long I've been in comedy, you don't lose that. I'm on the radio talking about these issues all the time. I'm talking about Iraq and Katrina and you say, why can't the NSA just spy on the National Weather Service?

    Q: What does it say about our culture that political comedians are sometimes as important as news commentators and are now becoming actual candidates?

    A: I don't think they are evolving into candidates. I think I might be evolving into a candidate. I know someone briefly asked about Dennis [Miller], but I don't see this as a trend. The trend I think you're referring to is "The Daily Show" and "The Colbert Report" and Bill Maher, and I think that's because they're so good at what they do. To an extent people probably don't realize, satirists sometimes get to the nub of the matter better than pundits or politicians, who don't have the value-added of being funny.

    Q: But it's an interesting line. Jon Stewart has been called on the carpet a few times for saying, well, we're just a comedy show.

    A: There's nothing contradictory about satire and seriousness. They go together. I used to have this argument all the time at "SNL" when we'd try to deal with a very serious topic with a satirical piece. Someone would go, well, you can't do comedy about something this serious. Well, yes, you can. That's what satire is. Satirists tend to be people who take things seriously. Satire is about insight. It can be a serious insight, but the way you do it is funny.

    Q: When you look at the punditry landscape - to simplify it, we have you, Michael Moore and Janeane Garofalo on one side, and O'Reilly, Sean Hannity and Ann Coulter on the other ...

    A:I hate being compared to those people. I see this all the time: "There's Rush Limbaugh on the right, and Al Franken on the left." I'm not a mirror image of the guy, I'm the opposite. He doesn't care about the truth whatsoever.:)

    He was talking about the minimum wage and said, "75 percent of all Americans on minimum wage are teenagers in their first job." I said, OK, that's not right, obviously. My researcher went to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, which said over 60 percent of people on minimum wage are 20 and above. So where did he get his statistic? It goes out his butt, into his mouth, over the airwaves, into the brains of dittoheads, and they believe this stuff.

    Q: Quality aside, are any of you having any real effect, or are your audiences just the people who agree with you?

    A: Obviously you preach a bit to the choir, but I think I also have an effect. One, I motivate people who already tend to think my way. Two, I arm them with facts so they can talk to their friends. Three, you do have Republicans listening, and this is gonna build over time. I have disgruntled Republicans coming to me who now have a place to hear the other side.

    Q: Predictions - who will be the presidential nominees in 2008?

    A: I can speculate like anyone. If Hillary decides to run, she'll be a certain kind of frontrunner. And McCain - you wonder if the Republicans will be smart enough to nominate him.

    Q: Do you really think it's a question of if Hillary will run?

    A: I do. I think she's assessing whether she can win, and I don't think she'll want to run if she can't win.

    Q: If she doesn't run, who moves to the front?

    A: I oddly think if she doesn't run, Barak Obama might. It may be wishful thinking. Will Gore run? I don't think he will. But that's something I'd like to see. Wesley Clark got much better as a candidate. Is Kerry gonna run? John Edwards is someone many people think of as a likely nominee. To see it played out is going to be very interesting.

    The score

    Born: May 21, 1951 in New York City, raised in St. Louis Park, Minn.

    The Al Franken Decade, and then some: Between 1977 and 1995, Franken was a credited "Saturday Night Live" performer for 11 1/2 years, longer than any cast member in the show's history. (If current "SNL" star Darrell Hammond returns for a full season, he'll break that record.)

    Tweaking the Competition: His Air America show, "The Al Franken Show," was originally called "The O'Franken Factor" for the sole purpose of annoying Bill O'Reilly.

    Crossing the Line: Critics thought Franken went too far with a letter to Attorney General John Ashcroft, written on Harvard University stationery, requesting his teen abstinence story for a nonexistent book . Franken apologized for the ruse.


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