The First Draft: Is Al Franken “Stuart Smalley”?
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” — www.thefoxnation.com
“Stuart Smalley Goes To Washington! Al Franken Gives Dems Super-Majority” — www.werushdaily.com
“Covering Al Franken: Stuart Smalley Saves The Senate!
Commentary: Can Journalists Look Past The Goofy Persona Of The Politician?” — www.cbsnews.com
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.
Photo credit: REUTERS/Eric Miller (Franken and his wife Franni in Minneapolis on June 30, 2009)