AKA Alan Stuart Franken
Birthplace: New York City
Race or Ethnicity: White
Sexual orientation: Straight
Occupation: Politician, Comic
Party Affiliation: Democratic
Nationality: United States
Executive summary: US Senator from Minnesota
Al Franken and Tom Davis (1952-2012) went to the same private high school in Minneapolis, and later worked in Brave New Workshop, a satirical theater group. Franken graduated from Harvard with a degree in general studies, and continued doing comedy on the side. Franken & Davis eventually brought their comedy act to New York, where they were spotted by Lorne Michaels, who hired them to write for a new show he was planning for NBC, Saturday Night Live.
Their behind-the-scenes work at SNL included Julia Child's bloody accident with the knife (performed by Dan Aykroyd), and "Theodoric of York, Medieval Barber" (performed by Steve Martin). They sometimes appeared on screen in crowd scenes and small roles, and slowly became SNL regulars, both together and separately. On his own, one of Franken's best bits was his commentary on the end of "the me decade" of the 1970s and the dawn of the 1980s, the decade about "me, Al Franken".
Another Franken sketch, "A Limo for the Lamo", had a dramatic effect on SNL. Aired in 1980, it was a blistering on-air attack on NBC President Fred Silverman, with Franken calling Silverman "a total unequivocal failure" while holding up a graph showing the network's prime time ratings plummeting. Silverman didn't laugh at all, and reportedly started treating Michaels like crap, leading to Michaels' departure from SNL at the season's end -- along with the entire cast.
Franken & Davis wrote for Michaels' 1984 flop The New Show, and returned with Michaels to SNL in 1985. In 1986 Franken & Davis wrote and starred in One More Saturday Night, a satirical teen comedy. Franken stayed with SNL until 1995, and has made numerous cameo appearances since. In his second SNL stint, Franken's most famous recurring sketch was "Stuart Smalley", the twelve-step addict. As Smalley, Franken wrote a satirical self-help book, I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!
In real life, Franken has been a member of Al-Anon, a support group for the families and friends of alcoholics, since 1987. His wife's alcoholism is said to be the basis for Franken's ongoing interest in the subject. Davis is also said to have had substance-abuse problems, which may have contributed to the eventual break-up of Franken & Davis. Franken also explored the less comedic aspects of addiction as co-writer of the 1994 film When A Man Loves A Woman, starring Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia, a serious look at alcoholism.
Franken's parents were staunchly Republican until 1964, when Franken's father grew troubled by Barry Goldwater's outspoken opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act. From that point, the Frankens switched sides, and the family has been solidly liberal ever since. Al Franken's humor has grown more political and openly liberal over the years. He is the author of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Why Not Me? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency, presented as his memoirs as America's first Jewish President. Franken also provided commentary for CNN at the Democratic National Convention in 1988, and anchored Comedy Central's coverage of the presidential elections in 1992 and 1996. In 1998, Franken starred in a short-lived sitcom called Lateline, a behind-the-scenes spoof of ABC's Nightline.
In 2003, Franken wrote Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, presenting pesky facts to challenge the fables offered by leading pundits. Fox News sued Franken, claiming his use of "fair and balanced" in the book's title infringed on the network's fanciful but trademarked "fair and balanced" motto. The publicity made the book an even bigger seller than it would have been, and the lawsuit was quickly tossed from court. It was Bill O'Reilly, host of The O'Reilly Factor on Fox News, who reportedly urged the network to sue. O'Reilly and Franken have had several well-publicized spats, and O'Reilly's photo is one of four appearing under the large-print word "Lies" on the cover of Franken's book.
In 2003, Franken was a Fellow with Harvard's Kennedy School of Government, and got in trouble for using Harvard stationery to write letters to Attorney General John Ashcroft and other prominent conservative politicians. In the letter, Franken asked participants to recount their personal experiences resisting sexual temptation, and said the stories would appear in a book about the virtues of abstinence, to be titled Savin' It.
From 2004-07 he hosted a daily political talk show on Air America Radio, mixing serious left-wing politics with skits, Limbaugh mockery, and increasingly serious wonkage. In February 2007 he announced his candidacy for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Republican Norm Coleman, and held till his death by Franken's friend, Paul Wellstone. After a razor-close election, recount, and a few rounds of lawsuits, he was sworn in as junior Senator from Minnesota on 7 July 2009.
Father: Joe Franken (salesman, d. 1993)
Mother: Phoebe Kunst Franken (real estate agent, d. 2003)
Brother: Owen Franken (photographer, b. circa 1946)
Wife: Franni Franken (m. 1976, one daughter, one son)
Daughter: Thomasin Franken (school teacher)
Son: Joe Franken (automotive engineer)
High School: The Blake School, Minneapolis, MN (1969)
University: BA General Studies, Harvard University (1973)
US Senator, Minnesota (2009-)
Al Franken for Senate
Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee
Hillary Rodham Clinton for US Senate Committee
John Kerry for President
Midwest Values PAC
Funeral: Ted Kennedy (2009)
Funeral: Robert Byrd (2010)
Funeral: Nora Ephron (2012)
Endorsement of Select Comfort Sleep Number bed
Endorsement of Yahoo!
Draft Deferment: Vietnam 2-S
Hitchhiking Los Angeles, CA
Risk Factors: LSD, Cocaine, Marijuana, Sciatica
Saturday Night Live
Politically Incorrect Writer
Lateline Al Freundlich (1998-99)
FILMOGRAPHY AS ACTOR
Hot Coffee (24-Jan-2011) · Himself
Indian Point: Imagining the Unimaginable (13-Sep-2004) · Himself
The Manchurian Candidate (22-Jul-2004)
Outfoxed: Rupert Murdoch's War on Journalism (13-Jul-2004) · Himself
Harvard Man (10-May-2001) · Himself
Stuart Saves His Family (12-Apr-1995) · Stuart Smalley
One More Saturday Night (22-Aug-1986)
Trading Places (8-Jun-1983) · Baggage Handler #1
The Rutles (22-Mar-1978)
Tunnel Vision (Mar-1976)
Author of books:
I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me! (1992, written as Stuart Smalley)
Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot: And Other Observations (1996)
Why Not Me? (1999)
Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (2003)
The Truth: With Jokes (2005)
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