July 28th, 2006

Franken´s 2008 Minnesota Senate Race Gets Pre-Emptively Funny

by Philip Baruth

If you have a fondness for Al Franken, and an obsession with the minute-to-minute dynamics of the balance of power in the US Senate, then you have one date already circled on your calendar for sometime late next year.

The day Al Franken announces for Senate, taking on the simultaneously pugnacious and ineffectual Norm Coleman.

Franken has talked freely about his desire to run; he´s moved both his Air America program and his personal residence to Minnesota from New York; and to VDB´s ear, he seems to have recalibrated his radio format to make it dovetail more neatly with a high-stakes Senate run.

The Al Franken Show has very slowly and methodically morphed into something more like a talk show, rather than the sort of hard-edged politics and broad humor (e.g. “The Oy Oy Oy Show”) that marked its debut.

And we are four-square behind the guy, make no mistake.

He´s smart and well-versed, and he has the ability to make people dribble soda out of their noses, at State dinners and stuff. A successful Franken run would rid America of Coleman, the worst sort of trash-the-UN demagogue, and it would provide enough crazy energy to power the blogosphere for a decade.

cheney has a gunForget Dick Cheney jokes. We´re talking full-scale comedy.

The catch? Franken´s a comedian. Worse, a comedian in the ironic mode. VDB worries that when he goes head to head in a debate, and stares into the camera to make his closing pitch, Franken´s lower lip will twitch, in that way that it does, and the Minnesota viewers will walk away with the impression that it was all a bit.

A funny bit, but a bit nonetheless.

But there´s another, deeper problem. As Minnesotans learned with Jesse Ventura, having a professional wrestler in the race is contagious — suddenly everyone looks like a cheesy pile-driving actor.

And Franken — at the very least a year away from announcing a formal run — has already begun to communicate absurdity into the Minnesota campaign, just by the very threat of his participation.

Think VDB is kidding around? Pipe this nugget from Raw Story: Norm Coleman´s 81-year-old father was caught yesterday having sex with a 38-year-old in a car parked outside a pizzeria. (We suspect “having public sex” is really a misnomer for something that was far less tandem in nature, but there it is.)

When questioned about his father´s arrest, Norm Coleman said he is “disturbed” by the news.


Disturbed it is, then.

But you see our point: without doing much more than mull a run, Franken has already transfused a dangerously slap-stick air into the Minnesota race.

And VDB is loving it.