September 14th, 2009
04:58 AM 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 9/11, 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 • Health care • Iowa • Tom Harkin
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