Comedian, satirize thyself

Politico reports that Minnestoa senatorial candidate Al Franken helped craft the opening sketch mocking John McCain that kicked off Saturday Night Live last night. A video of the sketch is available online.

Franken is of course a former staff writer for the show. He purports to have put his work as a comedy writer behind him. In his speech accepting the senatorial nomination at the DFL convention in June Franken extended an apology: “It kills me that things I said and wrote sent a message … that they can’t count on me to be a champion for women, for all Minnesotans. I’m sorry for that. Because that’s not who I am.”

But who is he? In the oral history of Saturday Night Live assembled by James Miller and Tom Shales, Franken talks (pages 119-120) about using cocaine while pulling all nighters writing for the show: “I only did cocaine to stay awake to make sure nobody else did too much cocaine. That was the only reason I ever did it. Heh heh.”

Franken was discussing his cocaine use during his first stint writing for the show from 1976-1980, a relatively long time ago. The jocular attitude he expressed toward his drug use would have occurred in his comments for the book (published in 2002), considerably more recently. Franken presumably made his contribution to the show last night without benefit of his old inspiration.

Last night’s sketch serves up the party line of the Democratic/Media Complex about John McCain’s allegedly nasty and false campaign advertising. I noted a few days ago in “How low can you go for Al Franken?” that Franken’s buddies at the Democratic Senatorial Campaign Committee are running one of the dirtiest ads I’ve ever seen on behalf of Franken himself. The DSCC ad all but accuses Minnesota Senator Norm Coleman of killing Army National Guard Major Stuart Anderson in Iraq in January 2006.

Franken is the angry liberal scourge of corporate America who didn’t get around to paying the taxes he owed in at least 17 states. This year he wrote checks totaling some $70,000 in taxes and penalties to the various states in which he had taxes owing since 2003. Franken finally got around to paying the taxes only when his nonpayment was exposed in the course of the current campaign.

In his business capacity, Franken has also somehow overlooked the little man for whom he purports to wage his political battles. Franken was found to owe a $25,000 penalty to the New York State Workers’ Compensation Board for failing to carry workers’ compensation insurance for employees of his namesake corporation from 2002 to 2005.

New York officials who made numerous attempts to contact Franken about the worker’s compensation matter since April 2005 never received a reply. Franken campaign spokesman Andy Barr said that neither Franken nor his wife Franni were aware of the matter before it was exposed in the course of the campaign in March of this year. Now that’s funny, as are the efforts of Franken’s campaign to lie on his behalf about his contribution to the show last night.

The Politico story quotes Coleman campaign spokesman Luke Friedrich commenting on Franken’s SNL sketch: “Angry Al has run one of the nastiest, most negative attack campaigns in Minnesota history. Angry Al complaining about someone else’s campaign ads is about as funny as ‘Saturday Night Live’ will get this year.” If Al Franken was ever funny, the humor dried up about two decades back. In last night’s sketch Franken once again tapped into the vein of unintentional humor that has been his forte for quite a while.

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