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.