Tuesday, February 10, 2015

Dear Senator Franken: Make Us Laugh

Dear Senator Franken:

It still makes me feel good to say that. Senator Franken.

I remember how people scoffed when you announced your candidacy. Saying you couldn't be taken seriously, and even if people would overlook your previous career you were just too liberal anyway. But in that history making year of 2008, you made that race closer and closer until it the margin was thinner than the skin of the Lizard People.

And the Right wing faux outrage machine spent months denying and delaying you the seat, and denying the president that 60th Democratic Senator. Can it really be, just six years since we had 60 Democratic Senators?

But finally they could deny and delay no more, and you took that seat you so narrowly but rightfully earned. Alan Stuart Franken, United States Senator from the great state of Minnesota, in the chair once held by Hubert Humphrey and Walter Mondale and Paul Wellstone, the holy trinity of the DFL.

And you settled in for five and a half years.  No Sunday talk shows for you, even though you excelled in the medium of television.  Just Minnesota media.  No showy stunts.  Sure, we saw occasional glimpses of the wit that brought you your initial fame.  But you were a senator's Senator, a workhorse.

Minnesota saw that.  And last year, when so many of your swing state classmates like Kay Hagan and Marks Udall and Begich fell, you not only survived, you thrived.  You increased your margin from - counted, counted, and counted again - 312 votes to more than 200,000.

That's no fluke.  That's not "celebrity." Celebrity may have gotten your foot in the door.  It doesn't get you a second term.  You have to EARN that.

As an Iowan, I was grieving in December at the end of your friend Tom Harkin's carrer and the loss of his seat.  So I asked my readers to choose a surrogate Democratic senator for Iowa, and you were the overwhelming winner. So I'm going to ask you my first favor.

But I'm not going to ask Senator Franken.  I'm going to ask Al.

It’s been decades since he stood on the fabled stage that so many comedy greats have called home. But come Sunday, Sen. Al Franken plans to be back in Studio 8H to help commemorate the 40th anniversary of “Saturday Night Live.”

The Minnesota Democrat, who spent a combined 15 seasons writing for and performing on the sketch comedy juggernaut, told HOH he expects to make the trek to 30 Rockefeller Plaza to watch the live, three-hour reunion show (scheduled to air on Feb. 15 at 8 p.m.). “The whole experience was wonderful,” Franken said when pressed about the most memorable moments from over a decade spent with the “Not Ready for Prime Time Players.”

I was happy to see that you're going to New York for the show Sunday, to celebrate all the laughs that you and so many others have given us for 40 years.

We love you as a Senator. But we miss that side of you. We just know that deep inside, you're full of punchlines about the absurdity of Washington in the 2010s, which turned out to be the REAL Al Franken Decade.  We can almost feel you holding it in. Must... not...joke... must... not...joke...

Al, your most famous character asked for affirmation.  You got that last fall from your constituents.  And they know you'll never take them for granted, that you won't go Hollywood on Minnesota.  You had plenty of chances to do that in the last six years and you turned them all down.

A lot of people are aware that your departures from SNL in 1980 and 1995 wasn't entirely on your terms, that you sought and were denied more prominent roles for reasons that had more to do with corporate politics than your own talents.  But your presence Sunday, and your prominence in your current career, mean a lot to a show that, while less prominent than it was in the three-channel days, still casts a huge presence over all of television and all of comedy.

Sunday is a special occasion.  Minnesota knew who and what you were when they elected you. Twice. And I'm sure they'd indulge you in a moment of fun.

Senator... sorry.  Al.  Maybe this has already been offered.  Maybe you're accepted.  Maybe you've declined.

But I hope you surprise us and get up on that 30 Rock stage one more time Sunday night.  Please make us laugh just once.  You're good enough, you're smart enough, and doggone it, people like you.

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