Al Franken

Former colleague reflects on Franken’s behind-the-scenes transition

Monday, July 27th, 2009

WNYC’s Mike Pesca interviewed SNL writer and former Al Franken colleague James Downey this morning about the senator’s “hyper-partisan” approach to comedy and how that played out in the writer’s room over the years. Pesca explained that he and Franken sometimes clashed over what is fair game in political humor, especially as Franken transitioned into a more serious role.

Check out the interview here, transcript here.

NBC pulls Franken video, won’t comment

Tuesday, July 21st, 2009

NBC has removed a video of Al Franken from their Web site which showed the senator in a 1991 SNL skit lampooning the Senate Judiciary Committee. Franken, who currently serves on the Judiciary Committee, impersonated Senator Paul Simon questioning Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas. It appears to have been removed sometime this weekend, only days after it was first posted.

Network spokeswoman Sharon Pannozzo wrote in an e-mail that “no one is available to comment” on the removal of the video. Asked when someone would be available, she wrote, “We will not be commenting at all on this.”

The video is also unavailable at Hulu. A transcript can be found at The Huffington Post.

NBC posts Franken judiciary skit from 1991

Thursday, July 16th, 2009

There has been a lot of talk in recent days that Sen. Al Franken, who has spent this week on the Senate Judiciary Committee questioning Supreme Court nominee Sonia Sotomayor, onced lampooned a member of the same committee during his days on Saturday Night Live. And now the public can finally see it for themselves.

The 1991 skit centered around Supreme Court nominee Clarence Thomas, whose nomination was scrutinized when it was alleged that he made inappropriate comments toward professor Anita Hill. Franken, playing bow-tied Illinois Senator Paul Simon, nervously asks Thomas (Tim Meadows) if a certain receptionist will go out with him. Other senators imitated in the skit include Joe Biden and Ted Kennedy.

NBC has finally posted the video, which was previously only available in transcript form. Franken’s portion begins about 1 minutes 49 seconds before the end of the video.
Playing himself this morning, Franken relinquished about three-quarters of his time for questioning Sotomayor after asking her “Why do you want to be a Supreme Court Justice?” See our article about yesterday’s remarks published in today’s Star Tribune.

Franken strikes a more casual tone at union event

Wednesday, July 8th, 2009

AX124_2F61_9.jpgAfter two days of formal receptions and press conferences, Al Franken drove across town on Tuesday for a more spirited celebration at the AFL-CIO headquarters. And though many in the national media mourned the death of his wit on Monday, the senator showed he could still entertain a crowd.

Franken, who asked the union group to hold the reception, was joined by Sen. Amy Klobuchar and former Vice President Walter Mondale, who had stood beside him hours earlier when he was sworn in as senator. With Walleye and fried pickles lying on nearby tables, the crowd howled as Franken entered the building, later holding up enlarged copies of his election certificate.

In contrast to the formalities of the day, the tone was decidedly lighthearted.

“I do bring you greetings from the state of Minnesota,” Klobuchar said. “Where in the words of our poet laureate Garrison Keillor: the women are strong – right Al? – the men are good looking – right Mr. vice president? – and all the recounts are above-average!”

Franken took the stage for 15 minutes, beginning his speech by reflecting on a comment made earlier in the evening about Minnesota’s election lasting longer than the 2000 election in Florida.

“Richard talked about Minnesota taking a little bit longer than Florida. In Minnesota we counted the votes,” Franken said, prompting laughter from the packed room.

Franken also humorously thanked Klobuchar for her participation in his campaign events.

“I must have done 50 or 60 [events]. And if I did 50 or 60, Amy was at 40 of them. And if Amy wasn’t there, her husband John was there, and her daughter Abigail. And if they weren’t there her father Jim – who’s legendary in Minnesota – was there. And if none of them were there I just thought to myself, ‘Why am I here?’”

The bulk of Franken’s speech was devoted to union-related issues. Franken, who is a member of the Writers Guild, the American Federation of TV and Radio Artists, the Screen Actors Guild and the Directors Guild, said he and his wife would not have had health care during the campaign without his union affiliations.

“We need to level the playing field,” Franken said. “The unions built the middle class in this country and what we have seen in the last 30 years or so is the playing field become a steep hill for working families. We’ve seen a great risk shift in this country, and that’s why we need health care reform.”

Franken emphasized that he would work to protect people’s pensions, especially those working for companies declaring bankruptcy.

“We have shifted in this country all the risks in life to working people,” Franken said. “And one of them shouldn’t be that you’re going to lose your pension after building up a pension. A hard day’s work should get a decent day’s pay, and a lifetime of work should bring a secure retirement.”

Franken likely to be sworn in Tuesday

Thursday, July 2nd, 2009

Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid’s office said this afternoon that Senator-elect Al Franken will likely be sworn in at noon on Tuesday, though no exact times have been set.

Jim Manley, a spokesman for Reid, said they wanted to allow time for Franken and his family to come to Washington – the Monday after July 4 is often treated as a travel day for Congress.

The Tuesday start will allow Franken to move into his new office, which the Committee on Rules and Administration confirmed today will be former Senator Norm Coleman’s office in the Hart Building. Though offices are often doled out based on seniority, Coleman’s office was never made available to other senators in the event that he won the election and returned to Washington.

Prior to the swearing in, Franken will have a meeting and photo op with Reid on Monday at 1 p.m., Manley said.

Franken and Coleman share a flight to Washington

Wednesday, June 17th, 2009

As the country awaits the outcome of the legal battle between Norm Coleman and Al Franken, two Minnesota high schoolers found the political opponents in an unlikely spot Monday evening: only feet away from each other on a flight to Washington.

Walking onto the commercial plane, the Blake School students spotted Coleman sitting in first class, only to find Franken moments later in coach.

The students were flying to D.C. with several parents to compete in National History Day, said Matt Hill, a staff member of History Day in Minnesota, who announced the odd sighting on Twitter after speaking with them.

“They said it was a very weird plane ride because the plane wasn’t very big and nobody was talking to either one,” Hill said. “Everyone was playing very Minnesota Nice about it.”

Tom Erickson, a spokesman for Coleman, said his boss was traveling to Washington Monday night to attend an event held by the Republican Jewish Coalition, where he is a consultant. Coleman has since returned to Minnesota.

“The first I heard about the fact that they might have been on the same flight was on Twitter,” Erickson said, adding that he has not had a chance to ask Coleman about the incident.

Franken’s press office did not return calls for comment.

Hill papers: GOP leaders tone down Coleman rhetoric

Thursday, June 4th, 2009

Roll Call and Congressional Quarterly both featured stories in the last 24 hours about Republican leaders in Washington who are willing to support whatever decision Norm Coleman makes following the Minnesota Supreme Court decision – a notable change in tone from only weeks ago. Whereas some of Coleman’s former colleagues once called for him to appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court, many are now saying it is his choice.

Sen. Jon Cornyn, R-Tex., told CQ that “it’s entirely up to him.” He added that they “will support him until he decides to hang it up one way or another.” In late March, Politico reported that Cornyn was threatening “World War III” if Franken was seated before Coleman pursued a federal appeal.

Roll Call, in addition to noting Cornyn’s remarks, cited sources who indicate Coleman will not seek a further appeal if he loses in the state Supreme Court. ” ‘He will be done’ he if he loses at the state Supreme Court, one Republican predicted.”

Al Franken on Minnesota Public Radio: “We just have to be patient.”

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

“It’s very premature to prejudge the outcome of this, considering that we’re already seeing that once you start canvassing, you already see a lot of things,” Franken, the DFL challenger to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman, told MPR’s Gary Eichten in a live interview moments ago.

Franken was referring to Coleman’s shrinking lead, which amounted to more than 700 votes when the senator declared victory Wednesday. That number has since dropped to 438 votes – which amounts to 0.01 percent of the nearly 3 million votes cast.

Franken said he didn’t foresee a Florida-style brouhaha surrounding the recount. The debate over the 2000 recount, Franken pointed out, took place in a state in which George W. Bush’s brother was the governor and the secretary of state had been accused by Democrats of suppressing votes. “Minnesota is very good at counting its votes. That ‘s why I feel this process will go in an orderly way. We just have to be patient.”

Recounts can change the outcome of elections, Franken said, noting that such a thing happened in the recent race for St. Louis County Attorney. In response to Coleman’s call on him to concede, Franken said: “Candidates don’t get to decide when the election’s over or who won. The voters do.”

Franken didn’t expand on his campaign’s concerns about possible irregularities in voting.

Margin shrinks again as Franken contemplates next move

Thursday, November 6th, 2008

The voting margin that Sen. Norm Coleman enjoys over DFLer Al Franken has shrunk to 438, according to the Secretary of State web site. That’s 39 votes closer than yesterday’s total. The number has changed several times as the counties recheck their results and what numbers they reported.

This morning, Franken’s staffers huddled at the campaign headquarters on University Avenue in St. Paul, and we’re anticipating that they’ll reveal more about maneuvers ahead of a recount. We’re also looking for more details on alleged irregularities that the Franken campaigns says may have skewed the outcome.

Live, from New York, it’s Al Franken’s woes!

Friday, June 6th, 2008

The continuing rough patch being endured by Al Franken got a thorough airing out nationally today on a talk radio show, where the host and callers rallied to Franken (while thoroughly trashing incumbent Republican Sen. Norm Coleman).

Host Ed Schultz, who proudly describes himself as a lefty, devoted nearly an hour to Franken’s travails, not unusual on a local radio show, but somewhat startling on a program that’s broadcast nationwide. Schultz, normally based out of Fargo, was on the road in New York City this week.

Schultz was dismissive of Franken’s writings and descriptions of his less-than-tasteful days as a writer for “Saturday Night Live,” saying it was all irrelevant to the current campaign. He also lambasted DFLers who have taken Franken to task in recent days. And he said he had talked this morning to former candidate Mike Ciresi, who he said told him “all options are open.” (Ciresi used the same verbal formulation Thursday with a reporter for the MinnPost website).

Listeners (many identifying themselves as Minnesotans) happily followed Schultz’s lead, making light of Franken’s travails as they made thoroughly rude remarks about Coleman’s character.

Schultz and Franken have a shared history, having both once been talk show hosts under the Air America umbrella. Franken left his gig when he started his Senate run; Schultz now is syndicated by another company.

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