It’s been a year and change since Al Franken resigned his position as U.S. Senator from Minnesota, after multiple women accused him of sexual misconduct and sexually inappropriate behavior. Now he appears to be attempting a comeback, starting with a political podcast.
But if a disgraced politician makes a low-budget podcast out of a studio in Washington, D.C., and no one wants to really hear what off-color jokes he wants to make about politics, does it do anything to rehabilitate his reputation?
The podcast, dubbed “The Al Franken Podcast,” has no full episodes yet, but its trailer promises that it will be essentially a Q&A-style interview show with activists, writers and old friends. (Dana Carvey shows up to do his impeccable Donald Trump impression.) Part of its iTunes description reads, “Think ‘The Daily’ without the resources of the NYTimes.”
Guests teased in the trailer included writers David Frum, Jeffrey Toobin and Michael Lewis, as well as the Latino rights activist Teresa Maria Kumar and the former judge and Harvard law professor Nancy Gertner.
Will the show be funny? Signs point to no. A running gag in the trailer is Franken talking on the air with his “Alexa,” a fresh-talking version of the Amazon cyber-maid. The joke (such as it is) mostly conjures the image of Franken whiling away the hours since his resignation sitting at his kitchen island and asking his own real Alexa things like “Alexa, do you know what updog is?” and “Alexa, who is Al Franken?”
Additionally, the clip Franken decided to preview from his interview with Gertner (a feminist legal icon who wore red pantsuits to court as an attorney and kept files on sexist lawyers and judges) was of Franken saying that she only got her position at Harvard because she is “100% Ashkenazi Jewish.” Which is apparently a joke about Elizabeth Warren identifying as Native American while she was a professor at Harvard.
Also, the clip he plays from his interview with Kumar, about voter suppression in Texas, he brings up the Unabomber. Also he ironically calls Judge Antonin Scalia’s dissent in Obergefell v. Hodges (the marriage equality case) “very gay.”
Why? Why all this? Why not just stay silent? Because political insider-y jokes and radio are what made Franken a politically viable candidate in the first place. Talk radio shows are the bookends for his political career — the last episode of The Al Franken Show broadcast on the day in 2007 that he announced his candidacy for the senate. (He tried a healthcare-themed podcast last November that went nowhere.)
Will this work? Will we forget about the accusations of forcible kissing, butt-grabbing and other instances of sexually inappropriate behavior with women? There are a half-dozen-odd guests on his radio show who clearly feel that 18 months was enough lead time for Franken’s reputation as an interviewer, at the very least, to be rehabilitated. Only time will tell if the podcast listeners of the world agree.
You may at least be heartened to learn that Franken does address the accusations that led to his resignation from the Senate, and offers a heartfelt apology for his actions.
No, no. I’m kidding, he doesn’t do that.
What does happen is this:
“Al, I hope you can make as big a difference with this podcast as you did in the Senate,” Alexa says.
“Yeah…” Franken sighs.
“I recognize that emotion as regret,” Alexa responds. Then Franken tells her to just play the intro music again.
This story "Al Franken’s" was written by Ari Feldman.