For Al Franken, a comeback attempt goes through comedy clubs

It was a pretty typical night at Comedy Cellar’s Village Underground with a parade of young comedians telling jokes about couple feuds, ...


It was a pretty typical night at Comedy Cellar’s Village Underground with a parade of young comedians telling jokes about couple feuds, body issues, and unglamorous sex. After Matteo Lane wrapped up his set with a story about sleeping with a pornstar, the curve came: the host introduced “the only artist in the lineup who was a US Senator.”

Then Al Franken, 70, in glasses and wearing a button-down shirt, slowly took the stage. He looked back at Lane, took a thoughtful pause and exclaimed in mock outrage: “He stole my deed!”

Franken has started off with this joke a lot lately, as he tweaked gear in the city’s basements for a nationwide stand-up tour. This is his way of saying how much he stands out in his return to comedy, after a career in the Senate that ended with his resignation after several women. accused him of sexual misconduct, including unwanted kissing. The New York comics generally don’t make impressions of Republican Senator Chuck Grassley of Iowa, nor do they seriously explain why they remain Democrats. And yet the four times I’ve seen Franken perform in the past month, he’s always been laughed at or even killed. The only time he really lost a crowd was after midnight when the fury of a rant against Republican Senator Ted Cruz of Texas (involving a dispute over an assault weapons ban) ousted him. the punchlines. Franken’s set lasted about 50 minutes, and a few comics that followed stung him. “I would have committed suicide without his gun laws,” Nimesh Patel joked.

In Franken’s new material, he explains how as a politician he was often implored by his staff not to be funny. It only leads to trouble. His act features a less censored Franken, which includes a story of him in the Senate locker room telling an oral sex joke with Willie Nelson – with Franken skillfully mimicking New York Senator Chuck Schumer and former Missouri Senator Claire McCaskill , both Democrats, as they dissect the joke. Franken’s delivery is a Minnesota mosey with spiky energy hinting at unspoken feelings and future ambition.

In the street after the Cellar show Franken and I chatted Norm Macdonald, who died earlier today. Franken mentioned that while on “Saturday Night Live” Macdonald beat him for the Weekend Update host, then recalled how NBC executive Don Ohlmeyer allegedly fired Macdonald for making jokes about OJ Simpson. , Ohlmeyer’s friend. Franken joked, “I have to thank Ohlmeyer for staying with a friend.”

It’s a funny joke, but as it often happens with Franken these days, it can’t help but bring up its own scandal. After all, many of Franken’s colleagues did not stay by his side following the accusations. After a photo was posted of Franken groping a Tory radio host on a USO tour, many Democratic senators called on him to step down, and he did so, denying the allegations in a resignation speech. Since then, many Democrats (but not all) have seen the reaction as a rush to judgment, including nine senators who called on him to step down and now say they regret it. Some politicians who backed their calls for his resignation, such as New York Democrat Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, faced a backlash.

Franken only recently started to explicitly mention the fallout on stage, albeit in passing, with a bit involving the model of a masked ventriloquist named Petey wanting to talk about how he was treated by his fellow Democrats. Without revealing the turn, the conversation gets lost.

At a restaurant on the Upper West Side, Franken declined to go into detail, calling it a “no-win,” but said it hadn’t changed his policy. “Part of the irony of it all is that I was perhaps the most proactive member of the Senate on sexual harassment and sexual assault,” he said.

As for his former colleagues: “I forgave those who apologized to me,” he said laconically.

Outside the restaurant, a man walked up and told him he looked prettier in person, then said in a pointed manner that seemed beyond politics: “I’m in. your camp. “

At a few New York shows, there was a certain tension in the hall before he took the stage, and a curiosity as to how warmly he would be received. Franken said he was never worried about it. “People like me,” he said, in a cadence that couldn’t help but recall his character Stuart Smalley, the 12-step aficionado he portrayed on “Saturday Night Live”. After I pointed it out, Franken made a cheerfully cardiganed character impression: “I’m fun to be with.”

Franken – who effortlessly shifts from showbiz threads to political threads – is less tongue-in-cheek than on stage, with slightly faster delivery, punching out many lines with a thunderous laugh that resembles a baritone quack.

Long before becoming a politician, Franken, who moved from Washington to New York in January to be closer to his grandchildren, was somewhat of a comedy prodigy – performing at the Los Angeles Comedy Store in a double act with Tom Davis while still in college. , and will work as a screenwriter for the original cast of “Saturday Night Live”. He then pioneered a limitless liberal comedy style with successful books like “Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations”. Franken still enjoys skewering the right-wing media entertainment complex amid dissections in public policy, which he does regularly as the incumbent. new podcast which hosts a star-studded list of politicians, journalists and artists. On his show he says, “The leading cause of death in this country is Tucker Carlson.

Franken says he’s coming back to comedy because it’s “part of him” and his conversation is filled with references to friends in the business. He says he went to the Cellar after speaking with Chris Rock and Louis CK But it’s hard to escape the impression that politics drives Franken more than comedy. He said he enjoys campaigning and being a senator, and for someone as well known as him, his act includes an awful lot of highlights in his resume (like the decisive vote for the Affordable Care Act) pampered. in a layer of irony who knows you can make people laugh by playing the con. “You are welcome” is a recurring punchline.

There are times on stage that have elements of a stump speech, and one wonders if all of this is a prelude to another race. When asked, Franken went from a laid-back comic book to a pre-programmed politician, “I keep my options open. “

What about running for the senator from New York? He repeated: “I keep my options open.”

After laughing at this diplomatic response, I remarked that I was not in the habit of interviewing politicians. Franken let out another quack laugh and acted out a scene imagining the ridiculousness of a comic book answering a joke question with “I’m keeping my options open.”

It should be noted that even in his account, the first time Franken ran for Senator in Minnesota, his initial impetus involved a clawback measure. After the senator Paul wellstone died in a plane crash, his successor, Norm Coleman, called himself “99% improvement” on Wellstone. In his book “Al Franken, Senate Giant”, he describes his reaction with a flash of anger, claiming that he knew someone had to beat Coleman, before adding that his reasons went from this “little place”. to another to help the people of his state.

As a result of his scandal, which Franken described as “traumatic” for him and his family, he tried to pull himself out of it and rise above it, he said. “I think we need more of that. It’s a fight but I’m getting there. That’s my goal.”

In a friendly New Yorker article from 2019 Franken said after losing his job he started taking depression medication; mental health is an issue he’s been working on for a long time, he said. When I asked about it, the political nutcase, not the comedian, responded. He raised the first law he passed, calling for a study of the impact of granting service dogs to veterans suffering from PTSD. The conversation turned to gymnast Simone Biles and how she prioritized her mental health at the Olympics. Franken brought up the people who criticized her, seeming to take Biles’ situation seriously before making a sarcastic pivot that was subtle enough that it took me a while to appreciate the subtext. “So strange – people criticize others out of ignorance,” he said, a hint of a smirk on his face. “I had never seen this before. I was just shocked.

When asked what he would say to someone who thought this return to comedy was a way to rehabilitate his political career, Franken said: “I’m not sure that’s the best way to do it. to do.” He offered another big laugh before turning serious. “I do this because I love to do this.”

Sunday, while performing his show at Union Hall in preparation for a Friday performance in Milwaukee (It’s not often that you hear material in Brooklyn about Republican Senator Ron Johnson), Franken got a roaring response when his model urged him to talk about leaving the Senate. At one point, a member of the audience shouted, “Run again! “

As the crowd cheered, Franken looked momentarily flustered and flattered. He seemed to be considering his next move or maybe weigh a joke. But instead, he made eye contact with the man cheering him on and said, “I’ll need your help.”

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Newsrust - US Top News: For Al Franken, a comeback attempt goes through comedy clubs
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