Franken's act is a liberal dose of political activism
Friday, March 25, 2005
By IAN SPELLING
SPECIAL TO THE RECORD
WHO: Al Franken.
WHAT: Lecture and Q&A session.
WHEN: 8 p.m. next Friday.
WHERE: State Theatre, 15 Livingston Ave., New Brunswick, (732) 246-
7469 or statetheatrenj.org.
HOW MUCH: $25 to $75.
Sen. Al Franken.
Don't laugh; it's no joke. Al Franken, the former "Saturday Night
Live" writer and performer and alter-ego of Stuart Smalley, says he
just might run for office one day.
Right now, though, he's content to pen such books as "Rush Limbaugh
Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations" and "Lies and the Lying
Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right," to
host "The Al Franken Show" on Air America Radio, and to do the
occasional lecture and Q&A, taking his liberal point of view and
strong opinions straight to the public in intimate settings. He'll
give that last one a go next Friday when he steps onto the stage at
the State Theatre in New Brunswick. Speaking by telephone from a Los
Angeles hotel, Franken offers a preview of what to expect.
Q. So, you'll get before the audience and ...
The lecture will probably be funny, and it'll be about politics. I'll
be talking about the importance of pushing back against the right and
against this administration and about the need for the Democrats to
get their act together. I'll be talking about things I consider
important, and I'll be a little bit on the attack. I'll also talk
about things we can be for, that we can get behind.
Q. It's amazing the way your career has evolved. Who knew back in the
Stuart Smalley days you'd be one of the main faces and voices on the
It is amazing. I've always been very interested in politics. ... We
never felt it was the job of ["SNL"] to have a political ax to grind.
But when I left the show in 1995, I felt it was time for me to write
what I wanted to write about, politically, and that's when I
wrote "Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations,"
because Gingrich was ascendant and Rush was his mouthpiece, and I was
angry. Ever since then people have listened to me about this stuff
and liked what I've had to say and how I say it.
Q. When you do an appearance like the one in New Brunswick, are you
preaching to the converted? Or do you get the occasional on-the-fence
conservative that you can convert?
I tend to be preaching to the converted. But sometimes somebody drags
another person there and suddenly someone's hearing stuff they
wouldn't otherwise hear.
Q. What do you think Stuart Smalley makes of Al Franken these days?
Oh, he loves me. Stuart really admires Al because he's doing this
stuff he cares about, and yet he's not grandiose about it. I feel
like I'm doing well by doing good.
Q. You've announced that you are not running for the Senate in 2006.
What went into the decision not to seek the post currently held by
Minnesota Sen. Mark Dayton (who won't run for reelection in 2006)?
I'm committed to the radio show [for a few more years], and I think
it would have been too soon in terms of how much time I've spent in
Minnesota. I'm looking for a house there now and I'm eyeing 2008.
Q. At the end of the day, might you make more difference and reach
more people via radio than as Senator Franken of Minnesota?
That's a possibility, and that's why I don't know for sure if I'm
going to run.
Q. If you ever go back to acting on TV or in movies, how much do you
worry about losing fans who simply dislike your politics?
There is something to be said for that. That's probably why I don't
really plan to act anymore.