Review: “Al Franken: Giant of the Senate” by Al Franken


Al Franken: Giant of the Senate by Al Franken. TwelveBooks.com. 406 Pages.

I teach one of my classes in a classroom in the university library. I also tutor students there. When things are quiet, I like to wander over to the New Books section of the library and peruse through what’s coming out, both for curiosity’s sake and to give me an idea of what editor’s think the public wants. Last week I came across this gem.

I knew Al Franken from his work as a comedian and writer on Saturday Night Live, going all the way back to the 70s. After decades as a comedian, I was one of the millions who raised an eyebrow when he decided to run for U.S. Senate. Since that time, he has done some positive things as the U.S. Democratic Senator from Minnesota. This book tells about his early years as a comedian, how he decided to run, the election and what he learned about being a senator. I also goes into a lot of detail about certain politicians we all are familiar with, but whom we only see in the spotlight, not behind the scenes.

What surprised me to learn was that Al Franken had written three New York Times Bestsellers before this one, all of them on politics. When he was on Saturday Night Live, much of what he wrote was political satire, and that is probably one of the reasons why he eventually got into politics. He also states that one of the biggest hurdles he has had as a senator is that his past as a comedian follows him around. In fact, when he ran for office, the opposition pulled up skits that he wrote on Saturday Night Live and used them against him, stating, “Is this the kind of person you want representing you in Washington?”

Since that time, his staff has worked with him to make sure that he presents himself as a serious senator, with only a few jokes shared as an exception. The photo that got him into trouble and led to his resignation last year (I suspect) was a lapse of judgment on his part where he fell back to his comedian mindset rather than acting like the senator he was. If you read the book, it will make more sense to you.

How do I rate this book? It depends on what you’re looking for. At first, it presents itself as something funny, but he purposely gets very serious when dealing with much of the political material. It’s not as funny as I would have expected. But it was eye opening for me in many respects, in relation to his life, to what it takes to win an election, and what being a senator is like. He also goes into much detail as to why certain politicians (such as Ted Cruz) are disliked so very much by both parties. So in that respect, it was worth it.

All in all, I give it three out of five stars.

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