Al Franken was born May 21, 1951, in New York City. He first gained notice as a writer, comedian, and sharp political satirist during his long tenure on the comedy sketch program, Saturday Night Live. He wrote for and performed on SNL from its inaugural season in 1975 to 1980; he returned in 1985 and served as one of the show's producers until 1995. He is currently a junior senator of Minnesota.
Career in Comedy
Writer, actor, and politician. Born May 21, 1951, in New York City. Franken first gained notice as a writer, comedian, and sharp political satirist during his long tenure on the comedy sketch program, Saturday Night Live. He wrote for and performed on SNL from its inaugural season in 1975 to 1980; he returned in 1985 and served as one of the show's producers until 1995. During this time he won four Emmy Awards for Outstanding Writing in a Comedy, Variety, or Music Series. Some of his most famous appearances were as a frequent commentator on the "Weekend Update" sketch and as the self-help guru Stuart Smalley, a character who Franken expanded into a book, 1993's I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me, and an unsuccessful film, Stuart Saves His Family (1995). On a more serious note, he co-wrote and co-produced the film When a Man Loves a Woman (1994), starring Meg Ryan as a wife and mother struggling with alcoholism.
From early in his career, Franken poked fun at politics and politicians, engineering a humorous encounter with President Reagan on his campaign bus in 1976 and initiating a number of biting parodies of Democratic and Republican leaders alike on SNL. In 1988, he provided commentary for CNN at the Democratic National Convention in Atlanta. Four years later, he worked as an anchorman and writer for Comedy Central's coverage of the Democratic and Republican conventions, an eight-day stretch of programming called "Indecision '92."
In 1996, Franken published his second book, a collection of political essays entitled Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations. During the 1996 presidential election, he memorably paired with the conservative Arianna Huffington as a commentator for Comedy Central's Politically Incorrect with Bill Maher. Three years later, he published a satirical account of his own fictional presidency, Why Me? The Inside Story of the Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency.
In 2003, after winning an injunction by Fox News to stop its publication, Franken put out another political satire, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right which included a cover photo of Fox News commentator Bill O'Reilly. Aside from openly mocking O'Reilly, a chapter in the book accused the commentator of lying. In August 2003, Fox News sued Franken, claiming infringement of its registered trademark phrase "Fair and Balanced." A federal judge found the lawsuit to be "wholly without merit."
The next year, Franken joined liberal talk-radio station Air America. His show, originally named The O'Franken Factor aired three hours a day, five days a week in an effort to provide an alternative to the conservative talk-radio circuit. While maintaining his role at Air America, Franken also published a sixth book, The Truth (with jokes) (2005), which focused on the 2004 Republican presidential campaign. The book debuted at No. 1 on the New York Times bestseller list, and remained on the list for ten straight weeks.
In 2007, Franken left Air America in order to fully pursue his political ambitions. Franken announced his run for Minnesota Senate on February 14, 2007, on the last day of his radio show. After being tapped by the Democratic-Farmer-Labor party in June 2008—and receiving an endorsement from conservative speech writer and comedian, Ben Stein—Franken won the Democratic primary for the Senate seat.
On election night in 2008, reports gave Franken's Republican opponent, Norm Coleman the seat by more than 700 votes. But by the end of the night, the two candidates were separated by less than 0.5 percent, which enacted Minnesota's automatic recount law. On January 5, 2009, the Minnesota State Canvassing Board put Franken ahead by 225 votes. The next day, Coleman appealed the decision, which led to a trial. On April 13, 2009, a Minnesota court announced that Franken was the winner. Coleman appealed again, this time to the Minnesota Supreme court. But on June 30, 2009, the state supreme court rejected Coleman's appeal, declaring Franken the winner. Shortly after, Coleman conceded. Franken was formally seated in July of 2009.
The second time around, Franken had a smoother course to victory. He defeated his opponent, Mike McFadden, winning more than 53 percent of the vote. According to the Minneapolis Star Tribune, Franken thanked Minnesotans "for taking a chance on me six years ago. And thank you for giving me the chance to keep working for you in Washington."
Franken is married to Franni Bryson, who he met at Harvard while still an undergraduate. The couple has two children, Thomasin and Joe. The family currently resides in Minnesota.
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