Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

From Senator Al Franken - #1 bestselling author and beloved SNL alum - comes the story of 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,...

Title:Al Franken, Giant of the Senate
Author:
Rating:
ISBN:1455540439
Format Type:ebook
Number of Pages:304 pages

Al Franken, Giant of the Senate Reviews

  • Julie Ehlers
    Jun 12, 2017

    I thought Al Franken was funny on

    (“When you point your finger at someone else, you point three fingers back at yourself. And your thumb at God, I guess”), but as far as I’m concerned his work as a pundit is where he’s really distinguished himself—both as host of his own radio show on Air America and as the author of

    ,

    , and

    (all of which are excellent and worth your time). Reading an

    I thought Al Franken was funny on

    (“When you point your finger at someone else, you point three fingers back at yourself. And your thumb at God, I guess”), but as far as I’m concerned his work as a pundit is where he’s really distinguished himself—both as host of his own radio show on Air America and as the author of

    ,

    , and

    (all of which are excellent and worth your time). Reading and/or listening to Franken for any length of time makes it pretty obvious that he’s a person who values honesty and accuracy, and he’s clearly carried this quality into his work as a senator.

    Franken is a very good, very funny writer, and you could absolutely do worse than getting your facts from him. (Back when Republicans wanted to privatize Social Security to “keep it from going bankrupt,” for instance, it was Al Franken who did the math that convinced me that Social Security was in fact in no danger of going bankrupt, and I’m quite comfortable having him as my source.)

    is more of a straightforward memoir than any of his previous books, and all of it was interesting—the parts about his childhood, the chapters about SNL, etc.—but nothing was more fascinating than when he decided to enter politics. The chapters recounting his first campaign, the recount, and his time in the Senate were completely riveting to me, in addition to providing a lot of valuable info about how Washington actually works. In this age of Trump, a lot of us are spending at least a little time trying to influence our elected officials, and if you’re looking for an overview of the whole situation, again, you could do much worse than reading Al Franken.

    A lot of politicians “write books” while they’re in office, or running for office, and these are mainly just boring PR tools ghostwritten by someone else, but that’s not the case with

    . For one thing, Al Franken wrote this himself, as he’s done with all of his books. For another, this book is totally honest, contains a fair amount of cursing, and pulls no punches when it comes to Trump or (most hilariously and informatively, in my opinion) Ted Cruz. The book also talks a lot about the art of and necessity for compromise. Franken is realistic about this as well—he knows that compromise is sometimes frustrating, but he also knows it’s the only way to make things happen. He quotes Barney Frank: “The only person I’ve ever voted for who I’ve agreed with one hundred percent is myself. The first time.” But ultimately Franken’s stories of reaching across the aisle are more encouraging than dispiriting. I’ve heard he doesn’t plan to run again in 2020, so here’s hoping he goes for broke in the time he has left in office. We need more elected officials like him.

  • Ashley
    Apr 16, 2017

    Check out a better-spelled version of this review on

    "I can't tell you I'll always get it right. But I'll tell you this: I'm going to keep fighting as hard as I can in the coming months and years to protect our children, our values and our future from Donald Trump." - Al Franken, from Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken.

    This is absolutely the book America needs to read right now. I want to just acquire a crate full of copies of this book and pass it out to people

    Check out a better-spelled version of this review on

    "I can't tell you I'll always get it right. But I'll tell you this: I'm going to keep fighting as hard as I can in the coming months and years to protect our children, our values and our future from Donald Trump." - Al Franken, from Al Franken, Giant of the Senate, by Al Franken.

    This is absolutely the book America needs to read right now. I want to just acquire a crate full of copies of this book and pass it out to people. Franken manages to be both hopeful, realistic and funny all at the same time when writing about the inner-workings of the US government. It's amazing.

    It is difficult for me to write an unbiased review of anything Franken has written - he has been a major influence in my life. Growing up, I watched Saturday Night Live reruns with my parents. I saw a lot of classic SNL - Gilda Radner, Bill Murray, Dan Aykroyd, Jon Belushi, Steve Martin, Adam Sandler, Chris Farley, Molly Shannon, Dana Carvey, Phil Hartman, Kevin Nealon, Will Farrell, Tina Fay...wow, I just started naming SNL people off the top of my head and just kept going, there. But yes, and, of course, Al Franken.

    I can't even begin to describe how much of an influence Lies and the Lying Liars that Tell Them was on my political development. I borrowed the book from my dad because a) it looked funny and it was by a guy I knew to be funny and b) the title. Seriously, how could you not read a book called Lies and the Lying Liars That Tell Them? As I made my way through the book it was like a veil was being ripped away from my eyes. I suddenly became interested in the political. I suddenly started watching the news and actually paying attention to what they were saying. I started reading the newspaper and Newsweek - the actual content, not just looking at the pictures and reading movie reviews. I got really into this TV series called The Daily Show. I started noticing the every day hypocrisies in my rural hometown. I started questioning the official narratives we were fed every day. I started questioning the narrative I was fed in Lies, and started fact-checking the claims within the book myself. This, incidentally, is how librarians are created, children.

    Lies woke me up and shoved me into politics. My terrible hometown, Jon Stewart, Stephen Colbert, Dan Rather and my local library did the rest.

    Al Franken: he's good enough, smart enough, and gosh darn it, people like him! Especially me.

    I was naught but a wee little teenage girl in one of the reddest counties of my traditionally blue state. In 2004, there was not much I could do politically, except go to a Kerry rally and then be sad when he lost. And be horrified at how happy my oblivious classmates were that Bush had been reelected. Really, guys?

    Anyway! This brings me, finally, to Al Franken: Giant of the Senate.

    When I heard Franken was running for Senate in Minnesota I thought "hell yeah!" And then proceeded to stop caring because a) college and b) I do not now, nor have I ever, lived in Minnesota. I was too busy paying attention to local news, getting kicked out of my room by my evil freshman roommates, and worrying about whether or not the economy was going to get so bad that my parents would lose their jobs and I'd have to withdraw from college and go straight to work. And, if that happened, would there even be any jobs left for me? Ah, 2008. What a crap year. Anyway, I squeaked through 2008 and didn't have to leave school, and next I heard, Al Franken won! Yes! Awesome! I immediately stopped paying attention. Then I heard there was a recount? Oh no, how dare they try and steal Al's victory from him! ...and then I stopped paying attention because school. I was glad when I finally heard that Al got his seat in the senate, but I didn't pay too much attention because a) not from Minnesota and b) college. What does this have to do with the book? Well, the book covers pretty much everything that I missed - why he decided to run for senate, what the campaign was like, and just how difficult it is for a comedian to adjust from being a professional funnyman to a superserious political-type. No eye rolling during terrible speeches. No snarky comments during a hearing.

    This book is for everyone - it's for anyone who is frustrated at the gridlock in Washington, who is sick of partisan malarkey, or who have lost faith in our democratic process. It is for anyone who watched the disaster that was 2016 unfold with tears in their eyes. It's for anyone who has ceased to see their representatives as human beings and more like soulless ghouls who feed on campaign donations.

    The best thing about this book is how Franken portrays his colleagues across the aisle not as demons, but as people making decisions he disagrees with (and think are evil). The sight of certain Republicans makes my blood boil, but Giant of the Senate reminded me that, as much as I dislike them, they're still people, and we need to work together if we're going to help everyone. At the same time, though, he fights for truth in politics:

    "[I]f we don't start caring about whether people tell the truth or not, it's going to be literally impossible to restore anything approaching a reasonable political discourse. Politicians have always shaded the truth. But if you can say something that is provably false, and no one cares, then you can't have a real debate about anything."

    Amen, Al.

    Thank you, Al Franken. Don't ever stop fighting for the people, for our country and don't ever stop being funny, even if you have to wait five years and put it all in book form. And don't ever stop telling stories about how awful Ted Cruz is, I could read those all day. Like, in book form. Nudge nudge.

    (my thanks to NetGalley for indulging my crippling ARC habit in exchange for some semi-coherent ramblings).

  • Bettie☯
    May 24, 2017

    Just for the Ted Cruz chapter alone, this has got to be a possibility

    :O)

  • Christen
    May 31, 2017

    Disclosure: I am Minnesotan and a Democrat (if I am in MN, I would be a DFLer).

    Funny. Smart. Very Minnesotan. Dry humor. Very Al Franken.

    Chapter 37 is the Ted Cruz chapter. (Worth it.)

    Honestly, Al Franken has a knack for explaining government. I knew what he was talking about, but it felt nice reading it from someone on the inside which made it understandable. Franken is smart and willing to be a Senator for the state of Minnesota.

  • Montzalee Wittmann
    Jun 04, 2017

    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

    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.

  • Trish
    Jun 02, 2017

    It had never occurred to me that reading the memoirs of a sitting senator could be an interesting and informative way to spend time. Congress has infuriated me for awhile now. Before I became laser-focused on politics in Washington, listening to the “can’t manage it” complaints from Democrats really burned me up, so the thought of giving a Congressperson more time to blather at me was unappealing.

    Since I have been paying attention, however, I can see lots of areas where “can’t manage it” compla

    It had never occurred to me that reading the memoirs of a sitting senator could be an interesting and informative way to spend time. Congress has infuriated me for awhile now. Before I became laser-focused on politics in Washington, listening to the “can’t manage it” complaints from Democrats really burned me up, so the thought of giving a Congressperson more time to blather at me was unappealing.

    Since I have been paying attention, however, I can see lots of areas where “can’t manage it” complaints are perfectly in order, leaving me free to be angry with the GOP and their many allied organizations, e.g., far right, libertarians, religious right, etc. Franken points out many ways the best laid plans go awry, and suggests those who are tempted to complain about politics try it themselves. Not a bad idea. It may be time we send our best to Washington to try to make some headway.

    So why does sitting-Senator Franken write a book now? He began it in 2015, shortly after he won his Minnesota seat by a comfortable margin for another 6-year term. He points out that Congresspeople do not make a large salary, but he’d better not say that too loudly in this climate where the enormous wage differentials between different types of work are an enduring and growing source of confusion, contention, and anger.

    A congressperson doesn’t make as much as a Hollywood celebrity, no. So? He has trouble living on his Senate salary? Anyway, he may have written the book because he can, because it is a something he is good at, and because his books are bestsellers, bringing in real income. I doubt it will allay the need for more fundraising, but it would be nice if it did. It may simply mean campaign funds do not become a temptation.

    But I think he also wrote it also to stir the pot and make sure we've heard the message that we need to work hard on our side to become involved and not allow the current administration to go beyond 2018. He's doing what he can to keep our spirits up. As Bernie says, now is not the time to throw our hands up in despair and resignation.

    Franken spent most of thirty years

    to be funny and after he became a senator, he had to cap the well so that he’d be taken seriously. After his re-election Franken thought he’d earned the right to be funny again in public, and the truth is, we yearn to find something funny about Washington. We know it is absurd. We want to hear a professional’s take.

    It seems effortless for Franken to be funny, to make jokes about the ridiculous posturing and outright lies, to recognize his fellow performers in the Senate as a kind of troupe, some of whom are easier to work with than others. And it is a kind of a relief to look at these politicians as humans, with human foibles. But no matter how many times I hear about the humanity of some folks, my heart is hardened when they repeat demonstrable lies to me.

    Everywhere I turn I see Franken promoting this book, so I’m sure everyone has some idea what is in the book itself. I was more interested than I thought I would be to hear how it is to campaign every day and every night, to win an election, to suffer through a recount and a challenge, to find co-sponsors for bills, to sit on committees, to fundraise constantly, to answer to constituents, etc. It does sound as though they are pretty busy, and Franken tells us the best way to help, rather than hinder, their efforts to conclude legislation that makes an impact. Calling one’s representatives does help, it appears, useless as it seems at the time.

    Anyway, this is not a struggle to listen to—Franken himself reads the audio—and it made me laugh aloud in places. I learned a lot, and find myself interested to look at his earlier work,

    . Let’s hope Franken doesn’t fall for the really ridiculous claim that Minnesotans are going to gain a lot of long-term well-paying jobs if the Keystone Pipeline from Canada’s tar sands goes through. It would make me happy if he could convince his people that pipeline is not going to save them and it will probably ruin the rest of us.

    I know senators represent their states, but those states are in a nation. I’d be happy to carve out a Minnesota-shaped space (or an Idaho-, Florida-, etc. -shaped spaces) if they think their needs more important than those of a nation. There is a balance between needs, and this is another thing getting out of kilter in Washington these days.

    An audio clip is available on

    .

  • Steven Z.
    Jun 10, 2017

    In the current political climate with congressional hearings, a special prosecutor, and a chief executive who demands fealty as if he were a "godfather" it was good to read a political manifesto in the form of biography that with drips with sarcasm and humor. When one thinks of Al Franken, Saturday Night Live (SNL) comes to mind, and the “serious” laughter his writings, i.e., RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT, and appearances produced. His new autobiography is in the same vein as he uses his life

    In the current political climate with congressional hearings, a special prosecutor, and a chief executive who demands fealty as if he were a "godfather" it was good to read a political manifesto in the form of biography that with drips with sarcasm and humor. When one thinks of Al Franken, Saturday Night Live (SNL) comes to mind, and the “serious” laughter his writings, i.e., RUSH LIMBAUGH IS A BIG FAT IDIOT, and appearances produced. His new autobiography is in the same vein as he uses his life story as a clarion call for a progressive agenda and a fight against alternative news and/or reality and the lies that are perpetrated regularly by certain politicians and supposed news outlets.

    AL FRANKEN: GIANT OF THE SENATE describes the evolution of a belief system that began at an early age, particularly as a young teen reacting to Lyndon Johnson’s work to get the 1964 Civil Rights Act signed into law. From that point on we witness Franken’s intellectual growth using his comedic sense through high school, college, a career on SNL, and a second career in the United States Senate. As Franken matures emotionally and politically his commitment to a progressive agenda for the American people (as well as Minnesota!) emerges. But make no mistake for Franken to be successful he had to suppress his public humor to avoid political pitfalls

    The key event in his career was the death of Minnesota Senator Paul Wellstone; his mentor, teacher, and intellectual role model. For Wellstone “politics was about improving people’s lives.” Franken presents a wonderful chapter encompassing Wellstone’s life’s work and positive goals for the American people. Franken explains the type of person he was and how he was influenced by his progressive agenda. Once Wellstone and his family are killed in a plane crash he was replaced in the Senate by Republican Norm Coleman who stated “I am a 99% improvement over Paul Wellstone.” For Al Franken it was “game on.” Franken believed in Wellstone’s core, that “we all do better, when we all do better,” a mantra that Franken has worked for since his time in the Senate.

    Franken explores in detail his campaign against Norm Coleman. Faced with Republican obfuscation, distortion, and outright lies Franken was welcomed to the wonderful world of what he calls the “Dehumorizer,” or how his opponent would do or say anything about his opponent’s past and present be it fact or fiction, in the 2008 campaign, mostly fiction. Franken would defeat Coleman by 312 votes, but it took over eight months to finally join his Senate colleagues as Coleman’s team dragged the results through the courts and in the end never really conceded. Fast forward, eight years later Franken was elected by a 10% margin. It is interesting how the Obama people did little to assist Franken, no matter what he did even Democrats could not wrap their heads around a former SNL comic becoming a serious politician.

    The most interesting aspects of Franken’s story rests on the legislative process which is bound in hyprocracy by both major parties, though perhaps a bit more by Republicans. He cites a number of examples dealing with the 2009 Stimulus package which finally passed despite Republican opposition which led to a slower recovery than was necessary. This allowed Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell to blame the slow recovery on President Obama. This is the same Senator who stated once Obama was elected in 2009 that it was his primary purpose to make sure that the new president would not achieve any successes. It is also fascinating that certain congresspersons who voted against the stimulus took credit for it when it created benefits for their own districts.

    Franken takes the reader behind the scenes as the Senate votes on legislation. In particular a “disclosure bill” designed to offset the Supreme Court decision in Citizens United. The cavalier attitude of a number of Republicans is offered in their own words, of course funded by the Koch Brothers and their “Federalist agenda.” Franken goes on to eviscerate Texas Senator Ted Cruz in a chapter entitled “Sophistry.” Franken is proud of the fact that he hates a colleague who in two short months managed to turn almost his entire party against him. As is Franken’s methodology throughout the book his comments are sardonic, humorous, and sarcastic, but below the surface the Senator from Minnesota is seething.

    A major theme of the book is a clarion call for Democrats to turn out and remove Republicans from power. If it is not done soon, Franken argues President Trump will continue to dismantle the achievements that Obama was able to attain. Franken tries to be upbeat throughout as he rests on his comedic talent. But, after watching the Senate Intelligence Hearings and Trump’s response congressional hearings televised on what seems to be a daily basis, a special prosecutor, and a chief executive who demands fealty as if he was “the godfather” it was good to read an uplifting political manifesto in the form of a biography that the past few days we all must be careful because what we are witnessing cannot be good for our country, which seems to be what motivates Franken each day-what is good for our country.

  • Bill  Kerwin
    Jun 16, 2017

    At last, here is a book which answers the burning question:

    The short answer, of course: he’s a senator, and senators aren’t supposed to be funny. The long answer—the central idea of this thoughtful (and funny) autobiographical narrative—is that he’s still very funny, very funny indeed, but, for most of the last ten years, has tried his very best not to be. His fellow Minnesotans, like most regular Americans, want elected officials who keep their heads down an

    At last, here is a book which answers the burning question:

    The short answer, of course: he’s a senator, and senators aren’t supposed to be funny. The long answer—the central idea of this thoughtful (and funny) autobiographical narrative—is that he’s still very funny, very funny indeed, but, for most of the last ten years, has tried his very best not to be. His fellow Minnesotans, like most regular Americans, want elected officials who keep their heads down and work hard, not needy jokesters who keeping calling attention to themselves. And Franken—who is just as serious about being a senator as he once was about being a creator of comedy—has labored for a decade to be a workhorse not a showhorse, doing whatever he can to make life better for the people of his home state.

    Franken puts it better himself: “[this book is] the story of how, after spending a lifetime learning how to be funny, I learned how not to be funny.”

    But the book is, of course, about other things too: his mentor Paul Wellstone, what a political campaign is like, the policy issues (health care, gun control, campaign financing) Franken cares deeply about, his incremental legislative victories, how the senate changes your sense of how Washington works, and how “you must work hard to make sure that it doesn’t change who you are.”

    I finished this book in the days following the congressional baseball shooting, and I was heartened to read of Al’s friendships with Republican senators: writing country songs with Orrin Hatch, listening to “Bob and Ray” tapes with Pat Roberts, trading amiable quips with Jeff Sessions (Jeff’s wife Mary—friends with Al’s wife Franni—knitted Al’s grandson Joe his favorite baby-blanket.) In fact, Al seems to have good things to say about most of his Republican colleagues. (Except for Senator Ted Cruz. One must have standards, of course.)

    The best thing about this book, at least for me, is that Franken, after all these years, has finally become comfortable enough with himself to be both funny and serious at the same time. He can follow an exposition of public policy with a devastating witticism (or a dumb joke) and both seem equally appropriate expressions of a complex, interesting man. Franken takes pleasure in publicly uniting the comedian and the senator, and his obvious pleasure in this process makes the book more serious—and much funnier too.

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