Opinion: SNL got McCain mocking points from Democratic candidate Al Franken


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(UPDATE below)

The opening sketch on last night’s ‘Saturday Night Live,’ a 4:42 minute mocking of Republican presidential candidate John McCain’s advertising and alleged technical ineptness, actually came from a suggestion by Al Franken.

Franken is an alum of the show, a maxed out financial contributor along with his wife Frances to Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama and currently the Democratic candidate for a U.S. Senate seat from Minnesota.


Franken has been so relentlessly attacked for some past profane comedic performances and writings in his previous career that he felt obliged to explain and attempt to distance himself from them in a speech to his party’s state convention back in June.

[EDITOR’S NOTE: A photo previously posted showing Franken in diapers -- allegedly part of a ‘Saturday Night Live’ skit -- has been removed after readers pointed out the image was altered. It is against Times policy to run doctored photographs. According to ThinkProgress, which debunked the photo, Andy Barr, director of Franken’s Midwest Values PAC, confirmed, ‘The picture is a fake.’]

Franken described his idea in a phone call with longtime SNL producer Lorne Michaels, who passed it on to head writer Seth Meyers, who contacted Franken to discuss its dramatic components, development and content.

Although the satiric program has over time skewered both Rep[ublicans and Dermocrats, and....

...Michaels, a Canadian native, has donated to both parties and both Obama and McCain, the latest revelation of active creative involvement by a liberal active politician in the television network’s programming content against a conservative presidential candidate is likely to prove at the very least embarrassing.

During the recent Republican National Convention in St. Paul, where Franken’s opponent, incumbent GOP Sen. Norm Coleman, was a co-host, when newly-nominated vice presidential candidate Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin made a comment critical of the Washington and media elite in general, the partisan crowd turned directly toward the NBC-TV booth chanting ‘NBC! NBC!’ for a full minute.


The presumed target of their enmity was most likely MSNBC, NBC’s news channel, which has also drawn the ire of Sen. Hillary Clinton, especially for some comments about her daughter Chelsea.

Commentators Chris Matthews and Keith Olbermann have been particular targets for their outspoken liberal bents and oft-expressed fondness for Obama.

According to Politico’s detailed article by Jonathan Martin and Josh Krau Shaar, Franken, who left the SNL show 13 years ago, was one of the skit’s credited writers as late as the show’s Wednesday script read-through.

A Franken spokeswoman initially denied the actor-politician’s involvement in the program, but later confirmed it.

Franken’s at least episodic involvement in the network show may provide further fodder for Minnesota Republicans to question Franken’s commitment to serving their state rather than himself and show business career.

As Politico notes, Franken has received more campaign contributions from California, specifically Hollywood show biz friends such as Tom Hanks, Robin Williams, Kevin Kline and Paul Newman, than from any other state, including Minnesota where he’s running.

The 33-year-old Saturday night network show has long derived part of its contemporary potency and popularity from its political parodies and even good-natured cameo appearances this year by McCain, Obama and Clinton.

One particularly powerful skit last spring vividly protrayed how in the tank the news media appeared to be for the fresh-faced Obama, asking him nothing but puffball questions, over far tougher queries to the veteran Clinton, a point she later brought up in one actual debate.

— Andrew Malcolm

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