Al Franken: God Spoke: An Interview with Al Franken
By special correspondent, Leslie (Hoban) Blake
Everyone knows the name of Al Franken but-depending on your age-it might be as part of the the 70’s comedy team of Franken and (Tom) Davis, the duo first hired by Lorne Michaels to help write and perform on Saturday Night Live. During his long SNL career, he won four writing Emmys while also appearing in political sketches (as everyone from Henry Kissinger to Saddam Hussein) as well as the addled self-help guru Stuart Smalley. Or it could be as the vain-glorious news reporter, Al Freundlich, a role he played in the late ‘80’s, on the short-lived political comedy series, Late-Line, which he also created for NBC. He continued to write and perform on SNL well into the 90’s and 00’s.
In 2002, 12-stepper Smalley confronted and comforted Presidential loser, Al Gore in an SNL clip that combines the best of his comic and political sides and in 2004, he emerged as the voice of the liberal left on “Air-America” radio. Now, he’s the ‘star’ of the latest Chris Hegedus/Nick Doob (The War Room) documentary,
Al Franken: And God Spoke. “They asked if they could follow me around about two years ago, and they came with me everywhere,”
Franken explains during his recent New York AF:GS publicity tour. “They shot me playing Saddam for the troups in the middle-East [he entertains for the USO every year], they came with me to the 2004 Republican and Democratic conventions, the beginnings of Air America and they were there for the whole Bill O’Reilly lawsuit against me when I wrote “Liar"s and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them.” (O’Reilly lost but the suit itself helped push the book onto the best-seller list even as it pushed Franken to the top of O’Reilly/Ann Coulter Enemies of the Neo-Con’s list.) In the film, Franken says, “I just take what they say and use it against them. What I do is verbal jujitsu. They say something ridiculous, and I subject them to scorn and ridicule. That's my job.” At the press conference, he elaborates, “I used to be civil to Anne before she went over to the darkside, but I’m always civil to Sean [Hannity] because he’s civil to me. All of us wind up in the same hallways given what we do and I have right wing friends like Dennis Miller and Ben Stein.” Asked how he liked the film (over which he claims to have had no control), Franken says, “I thought I come across as a great guy.” In person he exhibits none of his trademark snarky persona. In the film, the Harvard grad-born in New York, but raised in Minnesota-talks about his father. “He was a life-long Republican, who became a Democrat over the Civil Rights issue.”
Today Franken is poised on the brink of actually running for the Senatorial seat of Paul Wellstone, the late, much-beloved Minnesota progressive. “Paul was a friend and I want to see his dreams continue,” he remarks. “But I'm still primarily a satirist,” Franken concludes, recalling the famous Irish satirist and patriot, Dean Jonathan Swift and his "Modest Proposal." To prevent poor children from being a burden to their parents or country, Swift suggested they would be equally delicious... “whether stewed, roasted, baked or boiled.” Franken's modest proposal involves America's elderly, whom he would “send into space, because of course, we wouldn't have to worry about getting them back.”
Al Franken: God Spoke opens on September 13, 2006