The First Draft: Is Al Franken “Stuart Smalley”?

July 1, 2009

USA-SENATE/Plenty of current and former U.S. senators had memorable professions before they got to Washington: country fiddler (Robert Byrd of West Virginia), astronaut (John Glenn of Ohio), jewelry-maker (Ben Nighthorse Campbell of Colorado). But none were dogged by a satirical persona, as is already happening to newly-confirmed Democratic Senator-elect Al Franken of Minnesota.

Franken, formerly a comedian and writer for “Saturday Night Live,” created the character Stuart Smalley, a cardigan-wearing self-help guru, often pictured gazing lovingly into a mirror and intoning, “I’m going to do a terrific show today! And I’m gonna help people! Because I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and, doggonit, people like me!”

Stuart showed up in many Web headlines noting Franken’s victory in the Minnesota senate race over Republican Norm Coleman, especially those with a conservative bent.

“No Joke! Stuart Smalley Headed to Senate” —

“Stuart Smalley Goes To Washington! Al Franken Gives Dems Super-Majority” —

“Covering Al Franken: Stuart Smalley Saves The Senate!
Commentary: Can Journalists Look Past The Goofy Persona Of The Politician?” —

So we ask you: Is there any way Franken can shed the ghost of Smalley? Does he need to?

Franken is lucky in at least one respect. The decision that cleared the way for him to take his Senate seat came during a quiet week in Washington. President Barack Obama holds a town hall meeting on health care in the Virginia suburbs. The morning television shows focused — again, still — on Michael Jackson and preparations for a memorial service at his California estate, Neverland. The Mark Sanford saga continues, with sympathy running high for the South Carolina governor’s wife Jenny after Sanford described his Argentine inamorata as his soulmate.

For more Reuters political coverage, click here.

Photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Miller (Franken and his wife Franni in Minneapolis on June 30, 2009)


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Oh my goodness, the Minnesota Supreme Court handed the senate seat to Franken. Where is the outcry? He will now be the illegitimate senator from Minnesota. All the votes weren’t fully counted. This is a travesty…

Now before you all attack me and bring up the past…I wrote that tongue in cheek. Relax. It doesn’t change a thing in the senate.

The democrats may have 60 seats, but Senator Byrd and Kennedy are not even there to vote on legislation. So they really only have 58 actual votes if all the stars align, which they won’t…

Also, it is becoming very obvious there are many blue dog democrats in the US Senate who don’t agree with everything Obama wants to force on us. We can thank God for that…

Posted by TC | Report as abusive

great,now that the democrats have the votes,can we assume now that if things do not work out they will accept that they are accountable.i live in hope that some day a democratic politician will accept blame about anything.i live in CA and the hole show is run by democrats with the unions pulling the strings and everything is a mess,school grades, services etc and to hear the local reps it is never their fault, someday,someday.

Posted by brian lee | Report as abusive

Al Franken is a brilliant man, and very representative of a lot of Americans. He is a kindred soul to many Democrats. Anyone who is not cool enough to know that,needs to watch a lot more Al Franken videos. Your conservatives are going to belittle anyone for anything, because propoganda is all they have left now that their economic and military policies have been shown to be Ayn Rand inspired BS. The tactics perfected by the Nazi’s is a moral quagmire to say the least, because it relies on brain washing techniques, rather than logic and ethics to make political decisions. Yes, the US has waken up from the Neo-con Nightmare, and they now have nothing left but their lies… their ethics of humane issues were pretty much bought long ago by their lobbyists. Now is the time for a third party to rise up and make the battle between greens and democrats, as it should be. The Democrats are not exactly left wing…

Posted by John Scott Ridgway | Report as abusive

It’s just too funny everyone loved the character, I think there will be a clip of Stuart in the b-roll of every news introduction for as long as he is in office. Although, this one doesn’t have one: yman_or_senator

Posted by Rosa | Report as abusive

Stewart Smalley, by the way, was a character who was very important to the recovery community at the time. In AA, we passed his book around and had a good laugh at ourselves. I too have been mistaken for my fictional characters, and the mistake is laughable to anyone who knows anything.

Posted by John Scott Ridgway | Report as abusive