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

Franken draws big laughs at Iowa fundraiser

[cnn-photo-caption image= caption="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. Bubble of Sanity

    I thought you said he said something funny. The poor guy hasn't been funny in years. The only thing funny is that Minnesota voters would elect him to public office.

    No. Wait a minute. I forgot. They didn't. ACORN did.

    September 13, 2009 11:59 pm at 11:59 pm |
  2. obama the liar

    well, he has been and still is a complete joke.

    September 14, 2009 12:06 am at 12:06 am |
  3. Jules

    What a breath of fresh air.

    September 14, 2009 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  4. Richard Aberdeen

    Good for Franken. We need a few more comedians and a whole lot less corporate clowns in Congress.

    September 14, 2009 12:08 am at 12:08 am |
  5. Gus The Willie

    Franeken it the man, and just hope he don't forget his roots.

    September 14, 2009 12:10 am at 12:10 am |
  6. mike

    The only joke is this administration.

    September 14, 2009 12:13 am at 12:13 am |
  7. james

    He didn't put down comedy. He's been politics' biggest joke since he decided to run for the Senate.

    September 14, 2009 12:17 am at 12:17 am |
  8. Lisa

    He's got a ot more class and a lot more integrity than Joe Wilson

    September 14, 2009 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  9. Tom from Houston

    Steak Fry. Which one is the noun? I thought a Steak Fry was a thick French Fry (or Freedom Fry if you're still inclined). In the picture, they're standing in front of a grill. Is there a frying pan on the grill? Are the steaks deep fried and the grill is somehow allegorical? I would never fry a good steak. I suppose I might use a cast iron skillet to sear, but I would finish it another way. Not saying that they shouldn't hold the event, but why not call it a barbeque?

    Anyway, I wish CNN would spend more time covering international affairs if there's nothing interesting happening in the U.S. Americans really need some perspective on the world. Thankfully, we have the BBC on the radio.

    September 14, 2009 12:25 am at 12:25 am |
  10. Marge, Texas

    Al Franken should read over the rules of being censured....but if you can laugh at fellow senators without breaking protocol....sometimes laughter is good medicine. The Republicans could probably provide a great deal of material for Senator Franken. Maybe a little laughter across party lines could get health care passed.

    September 14, 2009 12:29 am at 12:29 am |
  11. Tyler

    Thank God they have a politician who can tell a joke, our politician's only think they are funny

    September 14, 2009 12:35 am at 12:35 am |
  12. hyacinth

    What a joke

    September 14, 2009 12:50 am at 12:50 am |
  13. Ginny

    I consider Franken more of a satirist than a comedian. But I am glad to call him Senator.

    September 14, 2009 01:01 am at 1:01 am |
  14. Jennifer

    He's in politics – what could be a bigger joke than that (either side of the aisle)???

    September 14, 2009 01:05 am at 1:05 am |
  15. Barbara romo

    Speaking out agaisnt our President Obama should be illegal and should face criminal charges! President Obama is an officially elected member of the United States of America President. This is not about free speech! Its goes beyond racial lines! Those people marching are jealous of his accomplishments and are paid by the Republicans who have failed.

    September 14, 2009 01:14 am at 1:14 am |
  16. malclave

    The biggest laugh of the night was when the words "Senator Al Franken" were spoken. Followed by a stunned silence when people realized that, though the man may be a joke, he is still a Senator.

    September 14, 2009 01:23 am at 1:23 am |
  17. pal

    Refreshing to have a new senator who has a good brain, as opposed to some who gave up their rights to use their brains to the highest bidder. Why can't these parasites who take bribes be charged? Washington needs a good cleaning to get rid of the stench of corruption. Also, a good many heads need to be chopped off. At this point in history I wish we had monarchs who could order the removal of a few useless heads in Washington.

    September 14, 2009 01:26 am at 1:26 am |
  18. Bye bye O-Bongo

    He never left. He IS a joke.

    September 14, 2009 01:32 am at 1:32 am |
  19. normajean

    As a senior, I never watched S.N.L. so I was unaware of Al Franken until he became a Senator and occasional guest on talk or news shows. I know now that I missed a lot by not seeing him before. It's not his comedic talent that makes me a fan,now, but his intellegence,straightforwardness and obvious caring about what is going on.He is a welcome addition to the political scene.

    September 14, 2009 01:43 am at 1:43 am |
  20. vick

    Al make some funny jokes about GOP.... THAN WILL SEE GOP CRYING ON TV... WHYYYYYYY!!!!!! WHY IS Al Making fun of us were trying to clean up our mess

    September 14, 2009 01:47 am at 1:47 am |
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