Al Franken

From Academic Kids

Missing image
A recent photograph of Al Franken (credit: Bill Hayward)

Al Franken (born May 21, 1951) is an American satirist, comedian, bestselling author, and radio host with a predominantly liberal point of view. Franken was half of the comedy duo "Franken & Davis" which wrote for and performed for NBC’s Saturday Night Live. Along with The Daily Show host Jon Stewart, he is considered to be one of the most popular liberal commentators.

He is currently the host of Air America Radio's flagship program, The Al Franken Show.


Personal life

Franken was born in New York City and grew up in St. Louis Park, Minnesota, a suburb of Minneapolis. He graduated from The Blake School in 1969, and Harvard University in 1973. He and his wife, Franni Franken have a son, Joe, and daughter, Thomasin. They currently reside in New York City but are in the process of moving to Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Al Franken is a distant cousin of CNN's Bob Franken.


Franken's writing and performing career began at Dudley Riggs' Brave New Workshop in Minneapolis where he worked with Tom Davis (the comedian, not the politician).

He and Davis were two of the original writers on Saturday Night Live. Franken was awarded three Emmy Awards and seven Emmy nominations for his television writing and production. He created characters such as self-help guru Stuart Smalley and schticks such as proclaiming the 1980s to be the "Al Franken Decade"1. Franken was associated with SNL for more than 15 years and in 2002 interviewed former Vice President Al Gore while in character as Smalley. Al Franken and Tom Davis wrote the script to the 1986 comedy film One More Saturday Night and they both starred in the film as rock singers in a band called Bad Mouth.

Franken's most notorious SNL sketch may have been "A Limo for the Lamo," a commentary delivered by Franken near the end of the 197980 season. Franken mocked the controversial president of NBC, Fred Silverman, describing him as "a total unequivocal failure" and displayed a chart showing the poor ratings of NBC programs. According to some associates of the show, Silverman's anger over the sketch prompted him to abandon negotiations with the show's creator Lorne Michaels and seek a different producer for the sixth season of SNL.

Besides having written numerous books (including Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations), Franken co-wrote (with his former partner Tom Davis) the screenplay for The Coneheads TV show. He also wrote the original screenplay and starred in the theatrical flop, Stuart Saves His Family and the hit film When A Man Loves A Woman. He co-created and co-starred in the NBC sitcom LateLine, but low ratings led to its cancellation halfway through the second season, with only twelve of the nineteen episodes airing.

Since May 2005 he's been a contributing blogger at The Huffington Post.

Conflict with the Fox News Network

In August 2003, Penguin Books published Franken's Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, subtitled A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. Fox News sued, claiming that Franken infringed its registered trademark rights in the phrase, "Fair and Balanced." Fox was unsuccessful, with a federal judge finding the lawsuit to be "wholly without merit". The lawsuit focussed a great deal of media attention upon Franken's book and greatly enhanced its sales. Reflecting later on the lawsuit during an interview on the National Public Radio program Fresh Air on September 3, 2003, Franken said that Fox's case against him was "literally laughed out of court."

See also: Great Liberal Backlash of 2003.

Radio show

On January 13, 2004, it was announced that Franken would enter the radio business. He signed a one-year contract to become a talk show host for Air America Radio's flagship program, The O'Franken Factor. The inaugural broadcast kicked off the network's launch at 12 Noon EST on March 31, 2004. Franken said that he chose the title The O'Franken Factor in hopes that Bill O'Reilly, who hosts The O'Reilly Factor and The Radio Factor, would sue him. No lawsuit materialized, and on July 12, 2004, the program was renamed The Al Franken Show. Following the 2004 elections, Franken signed on with Air America for another two years.

He co-hosts the show with Katherine Lanpher.

Political aspirations

Franken had been a strong supporter of Democratic Senator Paul Wellstone, who was dealing with a neck-and-neck re-election campaign against Republican Norm Coleman in 2002, but was killed shortly before the election in a plane crash.

Franken announced in November 2003 that he was considering moving back to Minnesota, his home state, in order to run for the Senate seat held by Wellstone's successor, Republican Norm Coleman, in the 2008 election. He has also said that he'd take lessons from Democratic New York Senator Hillary Clinton on how to run for Senator. On April 28, 2005, reported that Franken, who had previously promised that if he was to run for office would move to Minnesota and broadcast from the Twin Cities, was doing just that. "I can tell you honestly, I don't know if I'm going to run, but I'm doing the stuff I need to do, in order to do it," Franken said. [1] (

In 2003, Franken served as a Fellow with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government at the Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy. He also headlined two tours for the USO, entertaining troops stationed in Iraq.


"Mistakes are a part of being human. Appreciate your mistakes for what they are: precious life lessons that can only be learned the hard way. Unless it's a fatal mistake, which, at least, others can learn from."

"The biases the media has are much bigger than conservative or liberal. They're about getting ratings, about making money, about doing stories that are easy to cover." - Lies and the Lying Liars who Tell Them

"I guess it was God who had his head up his ass." - paperback edition of Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them page 363.

"Iím good enough, Iím smart enough, and dog-gone it, people like me." Al Franken as Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live.



Note 1: Weekend Update with Jane Curtin & Bill Murray ( Air date 1979-12-08. Retrieved 2005-02-06.

External links


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