Franken sense 

Comedian returns for LR benefit

  • AL FRANKEN: Back in LR.

The last time we saw Al Franken in Little Rock, he was on the attack against Rush, O’Reilly, Coulter and the rest of the “loony” right, his book was runaway bestseller, and getting the Air America network and his daily radio show into cities like Little Rock was his goal.

That was more than a year-and-a-half ago. Finally, Air America and Franken are on the local airwaves, albeit on the small AM signal broadcast at 1380 on the dial. And, Al sounded a little tired on a recent afternoon, following a busy day at the office, which is Minneapolis, his hometown, where he does his show.

“Air America is going well,” said Franken, the Emmy Award-winning television writer from “Saturday Night Live” during its great early days. “We’re slowly but surely increasing the number of stations we’re on. Between hosting the show and doing some of the other political stuff I’m doing, I’ve been pretty busy. Hosting the show has gotten easier, it’s jut the other stuff that’s wearing. It’s just an accumulation of stuff.”

Franken will return to Little Rock for a variety of events this weekend, highlighted by his appearance Saturday, July 29, at the Clinton Presidential Center in a benefit for Planned Parenthood of Arkansas and Eastern Oklahoma. Former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders will introduce Franken. Tickets for the benefit are $150. The event begins at 7 p.m. and includes cocktail buffet and full bar, book-signing and live entertainment. Call 801-0001.

Franken will also sign copies of his newest book, “The Truth (With Jokes),” as well as its predecessor, “Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them,” at Wordsworth bookstore in the Heights from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday. He’ll also attend a private luncheon Saturday at the home of Cindy and Chip Murphy.

Franken will air his radio show from the Rumba/Revolution restaurant and club on Friday,  July 28, from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. Admission is free. Local guests lined up so far are author Gene Lyons, Skip Rutherford, longtime friend of former President Bill Clinton and head of the Clinton School of Public Service, and Arkansas Times editor Max Brantley.

Franken originally did his show from New York, but moved back to Minnesota six months ago, and he’s contemplating a U.S. Senate run there in 2008.

“I’ve been working hard for other candidates in the state and around the country,” he said. “I’m raising money for people and I have my own PAC, and I’ve been doing a lot of the things that would be good to do if I do run. In other words, if I decide to run, I won’t have not done them.”

He says he hasn’t followed the political aspirations of Republican Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee closely, “but I know he’s considering running [for president]. I don’t think he’s going to be the nominee, but good for him. God bless him. I know he’s lost weight.”

You could sense Franken’s big smile on the other end of the phone. Mostly though, it was a serious Franken. Saturday night’s crowd likely will hear mostly a funny Franken, who finds humor in almost everything the right-wing mouthpieces and politicians do and say.

As for Democrats, he said Hillary Clinton, the former first lady, “is the prohibitive favorite right now” for the presidential nomination, “but it’s a long way to go.”

He says it’s very possible to see a Democratic takeover of Congress in the November election, but more likely in the House.

Relations in the Middle East as well as with North Korea and Iran are “certainly out of control. This is not what we were told would happen, by the persistent calls for action in Iraq and the whole Middle East. All three members of the ‘Axis of Evil’ are more dangerous than the day the president coined that.”

Franken said he’s tried to create a show on Air America that discusses all the prevailing issues, and his guests usually are in the Minneapolis studio with him. “We do it in a sort of fair way, maybe not a balanced way, but a fair way, and we tend to have a lot of experts. You learn a lot from listening to our show, instead of just hearing a lot of people.” Before this interview, he had brought in Watergate icon John Dean as well as the singer-songwriter Dar Williams for that day’s show.

“Having Dar was unusual,” he said. “We don’t necessarily have entertainment on there, we almost never do. I don’t want entertainment people talking about their politics and beliefs. And we didn’t talk politics with Dar. She performed a song. When she goes to a city she tries to get with a charitable or community group that’s doing something and makes an appearance for them.”




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