September 13th, 2009
09:26 PM ET
5 years ago

Franken draws big laughs at Iowa fundraiser

Comic-turned-Senator Al Franken drew big laughs at an annual Iowa fundraiser Sunday.
Comic-turned-Senator Al Franken drew big laughs at an annual Iowa fundraiser Sunday.

INDIANOLA, Iowa (CNN) - Sen. Al Franken, D-Minnesota, the former comedian who has largely put the funny business on hold as he plays catch-up due to his late arrival in Washington, proved to a Iowa crowd Sunday that he's still got it.

The "Saturday Night Live" alum and Minnesota native was the keynote speaker at Iowa Sen. Tom Harkin's annual Steak Fry party fundraiser.

For obvious reasons, this year's speeches centered largely around health-care reform.

Harkin was recently named chairman of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee, taking control of the seat held by the late Sen. Ted Kennedy.

Also a member of that committee now, Franken, in his deadpan delivery, used sarcasm to highlight the importance of the post.

"Its not really that big a deal," he said to laughter, as he slowly went through the list of the group's topics. "I mean, it's only health. Education. Labor. And pensions. I mean, who really would care about those things? Except for maybe people who are concerned about their health or their kids' health or maybe want their kids to go to, oh, a good school, or I don't know, people who work."

The crowd of a couple thousand chuckled and gave him cheers and applause. He then got a bit more serious.

"I can't think of anyone better to lead the charge.. than Tom Harkin," Franken said.

In a media availability held before the speeches, Harkin said this wasn't the first time Franken was invited to speak at the event, an annual fundraiser for Iowa Democrats. He was scheduled to participate in 2001, but in the wake of of 9/1, the Steak Fry fundraiser was canceled that year, the only time in the last 32 years.

"Back then I'd have been happy just to be here as a friend and supporter. Eight years later I'm humbled to be here as a colleague." Franken said.

Franken, the junior senator from Minnesota, officially took office about six months later than the rest of the Senate's freshman class after a drawn-out recount and court battle with former Sen. Norm Coleman.

Given the recent history of speakers at the Steak Fry, having Franken may seem like a bit of an anomaly to some. The event is a staple for Democrats running for president - or just exploring the option.

The 2007 event offered six presidential contenders on one stage: then-Sens. Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton and Joe Biden, alongside former Sen. JohnEdwards, Gov. Bill Richardson, and Sen. Chris Dodd.

Franken told Radio Iowa earlier in the week that he was "not interested in running for president."


Filed under: Al Franken • Extra • Health care • Iowa • Popular Posts • Tom Harkin
soundoff (45 Responses)
  1. davedindenver

    Franken is a joke so why won't he draw bi laughs.

    September 13, 2009 09:30 pm at 9:30 pm |
  2. Rob from Texas

    Nice to have another person in Congress that is down-to-earth. Looks like Minnesota has shifted more to the left along with the rest of our country. It was funny how Coleman demanded that Franken concede initially, but when the tables were turned Coleman ate his words...what a fool.

    September 13, 2009 09:36 pm at 9:36 pm |
  3. Proud to be the Party of NO socialism!

    He's "returned" to comedy. Did he ever really leave?

    September 13, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  4. Meka

    Don't be Surprised!

    September 13, 2009 09:40 pm at 9:40 pm |
  5. JES

    What do you expect he's a joke himself.

    Just shows you how stupid the voters are to elect a US Sentor with -0- experience. Oh I forgot we have a President that won the same way.

    September 13, 2009 09:42 pm at 9:42 pm |
  6. Mario, mtl, ca.

    I like that well done senator that make a change from what we seen in dc

    September 13, 2009 09:45 pm at 9:45 pm |
  7. Proud Boulder Liberal

    Dear Senator Franken:

    You will be an extraordinary asset to the Senate. We need some humor
    in these dark times.

    Warm wishes from an old fan

    September 13, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  8. Liberals are Hypocrites

    Ah, Franken - the biggest joke to date to join the Senate. Yeah, right - the Saturday Night Live narcissist speaks up! Yeah, that's what our country has come to and needs, alright !!!!!!!!!!!!!

    September 13, 2009 09:48 pm at 9:48 pm |
  9. Dave

    When did he stop being a comedian? The man is a running joke and now he's playing at the Senate. Of course, there it's hard to tell the audience from the performers.

    September 13, 2009 09:51 pm at 9:51 pm |
  10. ThinkAgain

    I'm so happy and thankful Al Franken won! He is already proving to be a valuable member of the Senate!

    September 13, 2009 09:53 pm at 9:53 pm |
  11. Oregon

    Sen. Franken re-joined Comedy Central the moment his election to the Senate was confirmed.
    WOULD YOU PEOPLE PLEASE QUIT BICKERING AND DO YOUR JOBS?! WE'VE GOT A COUNTRY TO TAKE CARE OF!!

    September 13, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  12. Wise Latina

    While it makes me laugh at what a buffoon Franken is, it makes me cry that our highest levels of government is populated by such buffoons.

    With the likes of these loony lib Dems, the future is indeed bleak...

    September 13, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  13. Dave M

    I like that caption "Al Franken returns to comedy"...his whole senate tenor is a joke. I am so embarrassed he is from my state!

    September 13, 2009 09:58 pm at 9:58 pm |
  14. Runofthemill

    All he has to do is say "birther" followed by "death panel" and "sarah palin" and everyone should be wetting themselves laughing.

    But seriously folks...

    September 13, 2009 10:00 pm at 10:00 pm |
  15. tim

    Not one person has ever been able to explain why anybody who actually works for a living would vote for a Republican.

    September 13, 2009 11:17 pm at 11:17 pm |
  16. tom

    What a great event! Almost as many Democrats here as at the "national" Teabaggers rally. The Harkin Steak Fry is what grass roots support is all about.

    September 13, 2009 11:21 pm at 11:21 pm |
  17. Franken Opponent

    Al Franken is even more pathetic as a United States Senator than he was a comedian. Policy positions aside, he is a classless, self-important clown who disgraces Minnesotans with his office.

    September 13, 2009 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  18. MiamiSteve

    He wasn't even funny on SNL. Makes sense a comic would steal his way in the US Senate.What a turd..

    September 13, 2009 11:30 pm at 11:30 pm |
  19. Paul F

    Franken is a class-less, thoughtless, rude man. It's too bad that Minnesota allowed fraud and corruption to occur in order to elect this idiot..

    September 13, 2009 11:34 pm at 11:34 pm |
  20. Alex

    Well, Franken would at least be a step up in 2012 from the current occupant! Aside from being a key conduit of military funding to Israel (and by no coincidence, one of the most AIPAC-funded legislators in Congress), Harkin is more acceptable than many Democrats in the Senate on a lot of policy issues, but I hope Franken will not succumb to the DNC/White House driven agenda when it comes to shilling for incumbents. I'd like to see Harry Reid, Evan Bayh, Chuck Schumer, Ron Wyden, and Arlen Specter primaried by challengers actually representative of their base, and much less in the pocket of Wall St. (here's lookin' at you, Chucky!) in 2010... Franken could do the voters of the party a great service by helping out such challengers, if and when they appear... And do his own career a good service by avoiding DC-insiderdom.

    September 13, 2009 11:41 pm at 11:41 pm |
  21. Mattison

    I dont think Al or America is going to be laughing when Obama bankrupts this country paying for pipe-dreams and pie in the sky domestic policy.

    Health care without a tax increase? Wishful thinking at best.

    September 13, 2009 11:42 pm at 11:42 pm |
  22. WoodyKC

    When did he stop? He's in the senate run by reid, ther is not a bigger joke than that.

    September 13, 2009 11:46 pm at 11:46 pm |
  23. lovable liberal

    We could use a little more humor in our politics. Good humor, anyway.

    September 13, 2009 11:48 pm at 11:48 pm |
  24. Babe

    There's a brain at work there. There are in fact no stupid comedians, only those who pretend to be. I think Franken can accomplish some good in Congress. A rapier wit can indeed be a keen weapon.

    September 13, 2009 11:51 pm at 11:51 pm |
  25. ichorwhip

    That's right Senator Al Franken (of the defunct "Al Franken Decade" in which we were encouraged by you to send money to "you" Al Franken, yeah nobody forgets crap), just when everybody is starting to forget what a funnyman you are and settle into the serious business of government, you reach for the sardonic clown shoes again. Not good, who's you're handler?

    September 13, 2009 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm |
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