Franken's humor is too smart for Minnesotans
Comedy about women and bestiality is funny... if the audience is smart enough to get the humor. Apparently Minnesotans are just too stupid to understand the greatness of Al Franken, says Slate. Poor Franken is one of those tortured souls just trying to be understood.
It does raise a good question. Americans love the anti-Politician (Jesse Ventura ring a bell?). But for some reason, comedy is not a good political trait and it is backfiring on our dear Democrat.
In reality, voters tend to ruthlessly punish any spark of genuine personality. And the worst personality trait you can have, politically speaking, is humor--not the corny, banquet-speaker humor of Ronald Reagan but humor as a cutting tool of social analysis.
It's understandable that people might, at first blush, think of Franken as the equivalent of Sen. Carrot Top--or the next Jesse Ventura, a fellow Minnesotan to whom Franken is incessantly compared. It doesn't help that Franken is best known for playing the goofy character Stuart Smalley on Saturday Night Live. And so Franken's comedic career has been transformed in the public mind into the job-training equivalent of dressing up in tights and smashing a fake chair over somebody's head.
But now you just don't get it. Franken isn't a comedian, he's a satirist. Do you Midwestern country bumkins understand? Doubt it. Slate lays it out for us:
Franken's critics are aware of his political satire, but that, too, has become another count in the indictment--Al Franken, trash talker. "He lampooned Rush Limbaugh as a 'big fat idiot,' and he dismissed Ann Coulter as a 'nutcase,' " clucked U.S. News earlier this year. Critics who take note of Franken's political books treat them as the left's answer to Coulter or Bill O'Reilly. But this misses the satirical point. To get the joke of Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, you need only to look at the cover, which features Franken posing in a tweed jacket in front of a wall of musty bound volumes, clutching a pipe, looking comically pompous. Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right has the joke in the title itself. Coulter writes books with titles like Slander: Liberal Lies About the American Right, whose charge is meant to be taken at face value. Franken's title mocks the accusation itself with over-the-top redundancy and subverts its own claim to truth by appropriating the corrupted slogan "Fair and Balanced."
The most surprising thing about Franken's oeuvre is that, as good a satirist as he is, he's clearly smarter than he is funny. Dave Barry once famously defined a sense of humor as a "measurement of the extent to which we realize that we are trapped in a world almost totally devoid of reason." Franken has an infinite faith in the power of reason. Time and again, he tries to present his adverseries with detailed rebuttals and gets nowhere. One book has a small moment of triumph, in which he badgers House budget committee Chairman John Kasich into admitting that Republicans were employing a misleading measure of their plans to cut Medicare. "I took a few victory laps around the table," he writes. Franken doesn't write, however, that Kasich and his fellow Republicans continued to brandish the misleading statistic anyway.
Maybe it's time Minnesotans stop wasting their time reading that terrible joke of a mailer by the Republicans and stop taking Franken's jokes so seriously. Wait, a comedian being serious? Ah! We are victims of the terrible pun too! But seriously, who doesn't love a bestiality joke once in awhile?
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you’ll never miss City Pages' biggest stories.
- Steven Timm charged with animal cruelty for harassing, drowning deer
- Cataclysmic boredom propels Stewart Mills into 2016 congressional race
- Man goes to meet prostitute with a trunk full of plastic and a giant empty suitcase