Senator Al Franken has represented Minnesota in the United States Senate since 2009. Before entering politics, he was an award-winning comedy writer, author, and radio talk show host. He’s been married to his wife, Franni, for 41 years-many of them happy. They have two children, Thomasin and Joe, and three grandchildren.
Not long after Al Franken won his three-hundred-and-twelve-vote landslide victory, in 2009, and became Minnesota’s junior senator, I called his office to set up what I had hoped would be a series of interviews leading to a Profile in the magazine. We’d rather not, came the answer. Franken and his aides were all too aware of the road that such an article was likely to travel: a writer and star of “Saturday Night Live” goes to Washington. They just didn’t want to hear more about Stuart Smalley, the self-help guru, or the Senator’s incomparable Mick Jagger imitation, and they certainly did not want to field questions about who was doing how much coke in the bathrooms and writers’ rooms of 30 Rock.
This may be the only memoir by a sitting U.S. senator in which the author warns a colleague standing in front of him at a presidential inauguration that he might “very well vomit the moment [the new president says] ‘So help me God.’ ” It may also be the funniest memoir by a sitting — standing, recumbent, squatting — U.S. senator. Scratch that “may.” It surely is.
“Al Franken: Giant of the Senate” is an only-in-America story of how a grandson of Belarussian immigrants grew up in the Midwest, went to Harvard and then on to a brilliant career in comedy, and then decided what the heck, and ran for the Senate and won. Just typing that mini-CV made me tired.
In many ways, Al Franken is the perfect interlocutor for this odd current moment, with its attendant Kathy Griffin press conferences and presidential gripes at Rosie O’Donnell and Onion headlines come true. When it’s hard to distinguish between a real Senate hearing and Saturday Night Live, get you a man who can do both. Franken, a 15-year veteran of the NBC comedy show, and, most recently, a two-term U.S. senator from Minnesota, certainly has some insight into the contemporary era of dysfunction. Or, as he succinctly summarizes it late in Al Franken: Giant of the Senate, his seventh book, “Lately, things have been trending crapshow.”