Al Franken, giant of the Senate

by Al. Franken

Hardcover, 2017





New York, NY : Twelve, 2017.


The Harvard-educated comedian, talk-show host, and U.S. Senator chronicles the story of his unlikely senatorial campaign, detailing the ensuing months-long recount and what his service has taught him about America's deeply polarized political culture."From the #1 bestselling author--a book about an award-winning comedian who decided to run for office and then discovered why award-winning comedians tend not to do that. This is a book about an unlikely campaign that had an even more improbable ending: the closest outcome in history and an unprecedented eight-month recount saga, which is pretty funny in retrospect. It's a book about what happens when the nation's foremost progressive satirist gets a chance to serve in the United States Senate and, defying the low expectations of the pundit class, actually turns out to be good at it. It's a book about our deeply polarized, frequently depressing, occasionally inspiring political culture, written from inside the belly of the beast. In this candid personal memoir, the honorable gentleman from Minnesota takes his army of loyal fans along with him from Saturday Night Live to the campaign trail, inside the halls of Congress, and behind the scenes of some of the most dramatic and/or hilarious moments of his new career in politics. Has Al Franken become a true Giant of the Senate? Franken asks readers to decide for themselves."--Jacket.… (more)

User reviews

LibraryThing member Schmerguls
5510. Al Franken Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken (read 26 Oct 2017) Franken was born 21 May 1951 and has lived in Minnesota since he was 4. When in 2002 Paul Wellstone was killed in a plane crash as he was campaigning for re-election Walter Mondale was named as the Democratic candidate for his seat in the Senate but lost . In 2007 Al Franken, known as a comedian, declared his candidacy or the positon and this book tells of his campaign for the Democratic nomination and of his election in 2008--which he won by some 287 votes. He then tells of his experiences in the Senate and it is refreshing that he buckled down and became the best Senator that he could be, so that in 2014 he was easily re-elected, Minnesotans realizing the he was a hard-working Senator who really tries to do a good job. His account of all this is a sparkling one, and while this is really a political autobiography--and I have read a number of such-- I have never laughed as much as I did in reading this one. I even busted out laughing in reading a footnote. The footnote is on page 186 and reads as follows: "Dick Cheney was the head of the search team that, after an exhaustive search, chose Dick Cheney as George W. Bush's running mate." Well, I have always known that and been continually amazed at the chutzpah involved in that search result, but reading the footnote so neatly summing up the absurdity of the event made me laugh out loud. This is really a fun and informative and well-reasoned book which I enjoyed much.… (more)
LibraryThing member Susan.Macura
In these troubling political times there comes a voice of reason and sanity - Senator Al Franken! Franken, going from satirist extraordinaire on Saturday Night Live where he played a senator to winning an extremely close race to become an actual senator, shares his thoughts and dreams for the American people. He makes me proud to be an American and helps me feel that I can make a difference. Viva Franken! I hope he continues to write and to fight the good fight for a long time.… (more)
LibraryThing member hemlokgang
I have read a couple of Al Franken's books and found them slightly extreme for my taste in reading. This book, which I listened to as the author read it, was a much better experience. It covers Franken's SNL years and his burgeoning interest in politics, and brings the reader to present day. The focus is on the nuts and bolts of running for office, and being in office. Franken's wit is definitely present and thoroughly enjoyable, without the over the top feeling. Humor enhances his point, rather than being the point. I was extremely impressed!… (more)
LibraryThing member Pamici
Wonderful and necessary. Reminded me why showing up matters. Highly recommend.
LibraryThing member bookchickdi
Many people, myself included, were surprised when Al Franken, whom I knew from his long tenure as a writer/performer on Saturday Night Live, won a Senate seat in Minnesota. I have been following his Senate career and find him to be an intelligent, serious person, doing a good job.

Franken recounts his path to the Senate, and his time there thus far, in Al Franken, Giant of the Senate. He brings the reader up to date on his life, starting with his family who moved from New Jersey to Minnesota when Al was just four.

His Dad was a liberal Republican, (which Franken points out no longer exists), his Mom a Democrat. The Franken family were middle-class, at a time when that meant you believed you could do anything you wanted.

Franken went to Harvard, where he met his wife Franni at a freshman dance the first week of school. Franni's family had it harder than Al's family, as her father died when she was a baby, leaving her young mother to raise five children on her own. They all went to college thanks to Social Security, Pell Grants, the GI Bill, and Title I, and Franken wants every family in this country to be able to have the opportunity that his wife's family did to move into the middle class. And that is why he says he is a Democrat.

We learn a little bit about Franken's comedic partnership with Tom Davis, and their tenure on Saturday Night Live, but it is his road to the Senate that is more interesting, if you can believe it.

He was angered when Norm Coleman, who won Paul Wellstone's Senate seat after Wellstone was tragically killed in a plane crash, made a rude statement about Coleman being "a 99 percent improvement over Paul Wellstone."

Wellstone was a beloved, compassionate man who worked his entire career to make things better for his constituents, and Franken respected him greatly. After that statement, Franken decided to run for Senate against Coleman.

We get a fascinating look at what a Senate campaign entails, as well as a look at what Minnesota is like as a state. They have a significant Native American population, they are home to the well-respected Mayo Clinic, and they are skeptical of show business people.

We learn what a 'bean feed' is (think spaghetti dinner or fish fry), and that Franni makes a mean apple pie. Coleman went after Franken's comedy roots, twisting sketches he wrote on SNL to imply that Franken is perverse- he jokes about bestiality for goodness sake!

Franken's 4th grade teacher made a commercial for him that had a big impact, but it was Franni's commerical where she talked about how Al helped her get through a bad period when she had a drinking problem that turned the tide.

The election was so close that there was a recount- that lasted eight months before Franken was able to take his seat. Franken talks frankly about his Senate experiences with Chuck Schumer, Mitch McConnell, Jeff Sessions, and a hilarious chapter on Ted Cruz, whom no one likes.

We get an inside look at how a bill really gets to be a law (it's not as easy as Schoolhouse Rock makes it out to be), Senate hearings on Sonia Sotomayor, and the work to get the Affordable Health Care Act passed.

Franken has kind words for the Clintons, both of whom helped to get him elected in 2008, and while he respects Barack Obama as a great President, he and the DSCC did not help him much at all. He was re-elected in 2014, and speaks with great disappointment and concern that Trump was elected, and what that means for America.

After reading Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, I have even more respect for Franken. He works hard for the people of Minnesota, on issues that effect their everyday lives. He studies and does his homework, and I admit to tearing up as I read his last chapter about attending a high school graduation where a young Muslim woman, who was a Senate page for his office, spoke. He believes in the greatness of the American people, something that we are seeing play out right now in Texas as volunteers flock to help those devastated by Hurricane Harvey.

I give Al Franken, Giant of the Senate my highest recommendation. It gives you hope that there are good people in government on both sides, and hope for our country's future. It's also laugh-out-loud funny at times. (#Franken2020, anyone?).
… (more)
LibraryThing member ritaer
Senator Franken begins with a bit of biography about his career in show business. He explains how he became involved in politics through supporting Senator Paul Wellstone. Eventually Franken decided to ruan against the Republican who had replaced Wellstone as one of Minnesota's senators. After years of constant effort to be funny and spontaneous, Franken has to learn how to scale it back in order to be taken seriously. The second half of the book tells of what it is like to work in the Senate: the committee hearings, the compromises, the frustrations and rewards. As in Franken's other political books: Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them and The Truth (With Jokes), this book contains valuable observations about the state of American politics, leavened with humor.… (more)
LibraryThing member dcoward
Interesting, angry, (funny, but not as funny as you would think) and ultimately hopeful, this was an inspiring read.
LibraryThing member annbury
A wonderful book, Franken writes a thriller about his election, and is quite good about
his early days in the senate. Unfortunately I will now read all of his books, which I have happily ignored.
LibraryThing member teckelvik
This was a quick, fun read. A lot of it was set pieces that I've heard before, in interviews and in various appearances. However, he tells them well. It was also fun to see mentions of people I know and places I'm familiar with.

I suspect that if you aren't fundamentally in agreement with his politics, you wouldn't like this book at all.… (more)
LibraryThing member DanaJean
Al Franken is a serious and hard working senator for the state of Minnesota. Almost a career that wasn't, Senator Franken has jumped into the cesspool of politics to be a voice for the people. How refreshing!

Brilliantly overcoming some preconceived notion that a comedic genius can't possibly be a serious senator, he has worked hard to learn and to keep putting the screws to the insanity that has engulfed half our country. With the loss of honesty, integrity, respect and dignity in our highest office, Senator Al Franken has shown that he will continue to work with everyone for the good of the people, not only of Minnesota, but the country.

His humor is "whip smart" and for those who don't realize it, for someone to be witty and funny, they have to be fast thinking and intelligent. I don't trust anyone who doesn't have a sense of humor, they're one step from drinking the kool-aid.

He continues to champion the little guy, and time and again reaches across the aisle to work with people who he shares almost nothing in common with except maybe one issue. But, he acts like an adult and employs teamwork, a concept some of you might remember from kindergarten. Obviously not everyone learned that. They would fall in that Don't-Bee category.

Informative, witty, charming -- I would recommend this book to all people. Both sides could learn from Senator Franken's words if they would read with an honest and open mind.
… (more)
LibraryThing member willszal
Reading this book reminds me that you can both be a good and competent politician (which is quite an accomplishment) and still fail to further meaningful work. In particular, what I'm speaking to here is that, although Franken has pushed forward a number of perfectly fine bills, such as on therapeutic dogs for veterans, he hasn't made any real progress on the climate change front, despite the fact that he reiterated the existential importance of this numerous times throughout the text. One poignant simile people use to illustrate a lack of prioritization: "like reorganizing the deck chairs on the Titanic."

You might say I'm being unfair to him; "even senators aren't gods." Maybe. But I don't think so. We all have a responsibility to put ourselves to a highest and best use, as discerned by reflecting on our values and vocation. I don't think Franken has yet found this vocation in his life as a politician.

One missing component seems to involve his insecurities surrounding his primary asset—his sense of humor. These are weird times. Trump's election should have dispelled any sense of normality. And yet, for whatever reason, Franken still seems to feel that he needs to "uphold the honor of the office." I think that's pompous, conservative, and irresponsible. Franken should be using whatever tools are at his disposal to accomplish his aims—first a foremost, a biting sense of humor, which he should be deploying without remorse.

I'd like to add that I don't think everyone should believe global warming is our most pressing issue—I don't. But Franken said he does, and I find it disappointing that his actions as an elected leader don't reflect this sentiment. This sort of inconsistency leads to impotence.

Additionally, I was also disappointed by Fraken's partisanship: "democrats are good, republicans are bad." This false dichotomy lacks the nuanced understanding that both parties dominantly fall within an extremist ideology known "neoliberalism." That this kind of political analysis wasn't once brought up during the pages of this text speaks to Franken's naïveté. He didn't really even talk about about Bernie (although this would just be the easiest point of entry for such a discussion, and not mandatory). He's not seeing the forest for the trees in the realm of social theory.

Look, maybe progressives find a book like this cathartic during these difficult times, and that's fine. But we can't stop there, and our senators definitely can't stop there. Now is a time for grand vision, stalwart resolve, and decisive action.
… (more)
LibraryThing member rivkat
Wry account of how Franken became, and remains, a Senator, with enough humor to carry you through despite the fact that he wrote it after the 2016 election, and thus there’s a lot of grimness to the humor. Also, it’s hilarious how much everyone hates Ted Cruz.
LibraryThing member DanDiercks
Hilarious and informative.
LibraryThing member rosechimera
The Most Entertaining Political Book Ever

Do you like politics? Trick question, it doesn't matter, this book is entertaining. Also, it's very informing by an author who manages to remain authenic and genuine to give you a backstage glimpse into the senate.
LibraryThing member ShellyS
I read this slowly on my Kindle app, starting before Franken resigned from the Senate and finishing it after, and my big takeaway is that I wish he hadn't resigned, because we need him, or someone like him, or many someones like him in government.

The book covers his early years, with a whirlwind tour of his formative years, a few chapters on his comedy career (including some nice behind-the-scenes looks at "Saturday Night Live"), then following with his entry into politics, and finally, his time in the Senate. What I most want is a follow-up that includes his resignation and how he feels about the current state of the US.

The insights into how government works, or doesn't, and his opinions of his fellow senators are worth the price, alone. This is a funny, serious, snarky, wise, and important book. I highly recommend it.
… (more)
LibraryThing member indygo88
Al Franken, initially most well known for his writing & acting on Saturday Night Live, made an even bigger name for himself when he ran for and won a seat in the U.S. Senate. This book traces back briefly to his growing-up years, his years on SNL, his decision to officially enter politics, and then his role as senator from Minnesota.

I actually didn't realize Franken was an SNL writer. I remember him best for his SNL role as Stuart Smalley in the early 1990's. And I remember being surprised that a well-known comic had run for and successfully won a Senate seat. But I honestly didn't know a while lot about his actual political views or what he accomplished while serving his tenure in the nation's capital, other than that he was a Democrat and people seemed to like him.

The fact is, Al Franken is not only a funny guy, but a very intelligent one as well. While not the first Hollywood presence to enter the political scene, he very well probably was the first comic/satire writer to do so, which was somewhat of a novelty when he won back in 2008. I really enjoyed this memoir, and am very much saddened by the unfortunate allegations that pushed him to resign, which, I suspect, may have been blown somewhat out of proportion. The audiobook is especially enjoyable as it is read by Franken himself. Republicans probably won't like it so much, esp. fans of Ted Cruz.
… (more)
LibraryThing member LisCarey
Al Franken grew up a Jewish kid in suburban Minnesota, went to Harvard, and became a comedian. That's vastly oversimplified, and he tells the story much more entertainingly as well as much more completely.

His career as a comedian, though, including being one of the original writers, and eventually a performer, on Saturday Night Live. It was never a timid show, though they also tried to avoid leaning too much to either side politically. They were entertainers, not political pundits.

Franken, though, had very definite political views, and this book is, mainly, about how he moved from comedy to politics, became a Senator, and what he's done since.

Franken is smart, funny, and irreverent, with a talent for biting satire. The humor and satire he mostly doesn't get to use in Senate, but they're deployed judiciously here. His intelligence, knowledge, and willingness to both work hard, and to pay attention to his hardworking staff, mean that he has a lot to say that's worth listening to. As a political liberal, he and I share values that are deeply important to me.

His account of working in the Senate, and working with Senators of both parties, is fascinating and educational. You can learn a lot from reading his book, whether or not those liberal values I mentioned are values you share.

Highly recommended.

I bought this audiobook.
… (more)
LibraryThing member jannid
Loved reading this, miss having him in the Senate
LibraryThing member john.cooper
Al Franken and I are virtually entirely in sync in our political philosophy—and I believe that his ouster from the Senate was more about power politics than it was about accusations of poor behavior, some of which I'm skeptical of. On top of that, I think he's about the most talented writer to have worked on Saturday Night Live, right up there with Bob Odenkirk and Jack Handey. So you're free to take my review with a grain of salt. All that said, I can't believe that a book this funny was written by a sitting member of the U.S. Senate. It's hilarious. It's also candid and almost unbelievably plain-spoken about what's right and what's wrong about American politics right now. Only a politician with Franken's wry sense of irony could win my heart as fully as he has, particularly since he combines that sense with a completely sincere passion for using the mechanisms of government to do good.

I particularly appreciate his stories of working across the aisle, which in these times can only be accomplished by someone with a genuine liking for others very different from oneself. Those stories aren't completely self-serving, as they would be in another politician's book. They're a guide to what we should expect of our elected officials in dark times.
… (more)
LibraryThing member writemoves
I was anxious to read this book and was pleased to pick it up from my local library. What makes this book different from others written by other politicians is Franken’s humor. He is very funny and I enjoyed many of his jokes and stories at the expense of other politicians. His comments about Ted Cruz are hysterical. Franken provides some personal history including his stints at Saturday Night Live.

Franken is the real deal. He does his homework and he asks tough questions. I am sure that many of the people that he questions during Senate hearings do not find him to be funny. (DeVros, Sessions etc.) Franken shares many stories of his experiences in the Senate trying to get legislation considered and passed. He is not a fan of Republicans or Donald Trump.

An enjoyable read if you are liberal, not so much if you lean conservative or Republican.
… (more)
LibraryThing member MontzaleeW
Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken is a book I was so ready to read and it did not disappoint. He started the book by going all the way back to his beginnings in comedy then on up to being a Senator. The reason for this was to show how hard it was to run for office after being a comedian and having every joke thrown in his face by both parties. This was an excellent book about how the inside of politics work and doesn't work. The inside of how corrupt some of these guys are. It told of Franken's tough times and his good times. You laugh with him and laugh at him. You laugh at the goofy politicians that think they are better than everyone else. The best chapter in the whole book is the one on Ted Cruz. Oh my gosh! Loved it. During the election, my family called Cruz the 'pedophile' because he looks like what we imagine a pedophile would look like. In Franken's book, he calls Cruz the 'pedophile' and I laughed so hard. Definitely worth the money and the time. Love his books anyway but this is just awesome.… (more)
LibraryThing member Rdra1962
Interesting read by the SNL alum, focusing on his decision to run for Senate, his crazy campaign and his feelings about the future of the country under the DT regime.
Franken gives us a few chapters on his early life and career and his time at Saturday Night Live, and the behind the scenes details are fun. The real stuff is the campaign, his motivation for running, how he launched and ran his campaign; the dirty tricks used by his opponent, his lack of support from the Democratic Party and Pres. Obama and more. It just makes you wonder why anyone would put themselves through such an ordeal - you either have to be an egomaniac, a power monger, in the pocket of Big Business, or naive and idealistic. Happily Franken was of the latter vein, although perhaps no longer! Harvard educated and a long time comedy writer Franken can tell the story, make you laugh, and even more important, make you think!… (more)
LibraryThing member dmturner
I have a confession: I never much liked Al Franken as a comedian back in the early days of Saturday Night Live. His brash style somehow didn't click for me. But Senator Al Franken? I like him a great deal. The candid, open, sometimes a bit crude style that didn't win me over then now strikes me as a refreshing difference in a politician. Not only that, I've seen him stand up for things that are right and get away with it (his question to Betsy DeVos about growth versus proficiency comes to mind). And he is very clear about his mission, and its limits, as an elected official.

The book describes a profoundly dissonant world of politics where you can spend three hours a day fundraising and the rest of the day being friendly with people who are actively trying to ruin everything you stand for; where your staff is there to save you from yourself and make it possible for you to function, but you are accountable for everything you say and do - including any controversial out-of-context things you may possibly have done in an earlier career.

The candor of the book is sometimes unsettling, though he inventively replaces foul language with words like "nincompoopery" (he explains, "Because I'm a United States senator, I can't use the word bull____"). He cheerfully mixes insults with praise, and gets along with some pretty repellent people. Franken's criticism of Mitch McConnell, for instance, is accompanied by affection. The same for many others. The only people he clearly has absolutely no patience for are Ted Cruz and Donald Trump, and he says so bluntly. His encounters with Cruz have been covered in many other reviews of the book. About Trump, he says, after the inauguration, "it began to dawn on many Americans, including a number of my Republican colleagues, that the new leader of our country was, indeed, unbalanced."

The book has plenty of flaws. He blows his own horn a good bit, pointing out his wins in show business and in the Senate, yet he also tells the stories of his defeats and naive assumptions with the same relish. His jokes remind me of why I didn't much like him as a comedian. They are brash and jarring, not subtle or unexpected. But again, he tells as many jokes on himself as on others. The book is written in a cheerful, chatty mass-market style, and like his other books, has a title that made me scratch my head and wonder why his editor let him get away with it. Obviously, though, that kind of titling has worked for him in the past, and is consistent with the way he thinks.

Near the end, he tells his readers, who for the most part are going to share his views, to keep showing up, keep being a pain in the butt, and become advocates. The book came at a good time for me. I recently finished reading Elizabeth Warren's most recent book and came away discouraged by her relentless exposition of how banking and big business have destroyed the common man. Al Franken offered a more cynical and cheerful take on the same injustice, and made it easier for me to keep going. Your mileage may vary. However, I recommend the book, especially if you have enjoyed Senator Franken's time in the Senate or if you want a better idea of the reason that august institution so often seems dysfunctional.
… (more)
LibraryThing member brianinbuffalo
Let's begin by stating what this book isn't. If you're looking for a laugh-a-minute memoir, this won't quite fit the bill. Some readers might conclude that Franken has tempered his humor a bit for this literary work, just as he did upon his arrival on Capitol Hill. Still, his wry humor and comedic spin provides more than enough chuckles as the author recounts his budding career as a senator. Franken provides behind-the-scenes insights into congressional tug-of-wars involving everything from healthcare reform and campaign finance reform, to climate change and media consolidation. One of the most interesting sections of the book is served up right at the start as Franken traces his roots in comedy, his adventures on Saturday Night Live and his transition from a comedian to an elected official.… (more)



Page: 0.3618 seconds