Al Franken

Active - 1976 - 2017  |   Born - May 21, 1951 in New York, New York, United States  |   Genres - Comedy

Share on

Biography by Sandra Brennan

Comedy writer, author, and occasional actor Al Franken was one of the first alumni of the NBC network sketch comedy institution Saturday Night Live (1975) and spent most of his career closely associated with the series and its byproducts. He is also the author of the best-selling book Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot. On television, he starred in the NBC sitcom Lateline (1997-1999).

Franken started out as a standup comedian in high school. While attending Harvard, he attempted to get onto the staff of the Harvard Lampoon but was rejected. Later, he teamed up with his former high school classmate Tom Davis and toured the country as a standup comedy duo. They were spotted by Canadian producer Lorne Michaels, who at the time was trying to put together a Monty Pythonesque sketch comedy show for American audiences. He hired them in 1975, as both writers and performers. As writers, Franken and Davis distinguished themselves with their outrageously funny sketches. Franken's recurring segment "Al Franken Decade" was one of his popular creations. They remained with the show until Lorne Michaels departed in 1980.

The unemployed duo penned many comedy screenplays together, but most went unproduced. One More Saturday Night (1986) was an exception, but it bombed at the box office. Not long after that, Franken and Davis returned to Saturday Night Live. Around this time, Franken created one of his most memorable and enduring characters, Stuart Smalley, an unlicensed 12-step therapist. A quiet, gentle man whose motto was "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough and doggone it, people like me," Smalley hosted a show in which guests would come on to share their problems and learn to feel better about themselves. Later, Franken later expanded the recurring sketch into the feature film Stuart Saves His Family (1995). Franken then hit the jackpot with his scathing written attack on Limbaugh and other rightwing radicals. The success of the book helped Franken land his own sitcom, Lateline. In 2004 he was the first star to sign on as host of a program on the nascent Air America Radio, and four years later he won the 2008 U.S. Senate seat for Minnesota in a disputed race.

Movie Highlights

See Full Filmography


  • One half of the comedy team Franken & Davis, formed with his high-school friend Tom Davis.
  • Performed stand-up in local nightclubs while attending Harvard.
  • During two stints on Saturday Night Live, served as writer, cast member and producer.
  • When he and Davis were hired for Saturday Night Live, staff was receiving $350 a week. They took the job and split the $350 paycheck.
  • Provided political commentary for CNN during the 1988 Democratic National Convention in Atlanta.
  • For the 1992 political conventions, he served as anchor and writer for Comedy Central's Political Indecision '92, from the Democratic National Convention in New York and the Republican National Convention in Houston.
  • Left Saturday Night Live in 1995 when his request to host the Weekend Update segment was denied.
  • In 2004, he was the first star to sign on as host of a program on the nascent Air America Radio.
  • In a disputed race, won the 2008 U.S. Senate seat for Minnesota.