If the old adage holds true that people’s ears burn when they are being talked about, then conservatives must have been in some pain last Tuesday evening.
Comedian-turned-political commentator Al Franken (think Saturday Night Live) entertained an overflowing crowd on September 30th at the First Parish Church in Harvard Square. Fully an hour before the actor and author was scheduled to speak about his new book, “Lies, and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right”, a line of hopeful fans wound in two directions around the block. Event officials were forced to clear the aisles and balcony of standing participants before the fire marshal would reportedly allow the speech to begin.
Franken, a Harvard graduate, delighted the audience by verbally bloodying Fox News’ attempt to sue him for using the phrase “Fair and Balanced” in the title of his book. “The suit was literally laughed out of court,” he said, pointing out that the judge had ruled the suit was “wholly without merit, both factually and legally.” His book has been number one for five weeks on the New York Times bestseller list and has sold about 925,000 copies.
“I’m licking my wounds,” Franken deadpanned.
(A New York Times editorial noted last August that his publisher “must be having heart flutters. You can’t buy this kind of publicity.”)
The idea for his new book was hatched when Franken was awarded a fellowship at the Kennedy School’s Joan Shorenstein Center on the Press, Politics, and Public Policy, which required him to create an editorial work. He organized a “study group” of fourteen students (700 applied) from the Kennedy School and Harvard College to help research his book, though they received no course credit.
The war in Iraq received special attention during his talk. “When Bush in 2000 said he was against nation building, I didn’t realize he meant only our nation,” joked Frankel, who devoted a whole chapter to the Bush administrations’ counter-terrorism efforts before 9/11 titled “Operation Ignore”.
Franken also applied a liberal dose [pun intended] of his brand of humor to the economy. Noting that the younger Bush has presided over a net loss of two and a half million jobs, he said, “If you put the two Bushes together, over six and a half years, [they] have created no new net jobs…if the Bushes had run this country from the very [beginning] to the present day, not one American would have ever worked.”
In reference to his biting, sarcastic humor and low view of the current administration, Franken was asked if he was afraid of friendly fire during an upcoming trip to entertain the troops overseas. He laughed.
Franken is also the author of “Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations”, a New York Times bestseller which won a Grammy award for the taped version. Other books include “I’m Good Enough, I’m Smart Enough and Doggone It, People Like Me”, “Why Not Me: The Making and Unmaking of the Franken Presidency,” and “Oh, the Things I Know!: A Guide to Success, or Failing That, Happiness”. He won five Emmy awards for writing and producing Saturday Night Live; has written, produced and acted in several movies including writing the 1984 hit, “When a Man Loves a Woman”, starring Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia; and has also been invited to speak at two White House Correspondents dinners. He is currently trying to create a talk radio network to broadcast liberal viewpoints.
On Amazon.com Franken’s book is rated (on average) four out of five stars.