Monday, December 17, 2007

The Al Franken Decade

Al Franken was the subject of a long piece in today's Washington Post about how he is having to cut back on the political satire in order to be taken seriously as a politician. He has had a long career in comedy including a archetypally bad SNL-based movie featuring his Stuart Smalley character. He has also written several books taking pointed jabs at blowhard right-wing radio and television pundits before becoming a laconic left-wing Air America pontificator himself. But I first remember him in December of 1979 in a segment on Weekend Update with Jane Curtin:
Well, the "me" decade is almost over, and good riddance, and far as I'm concerned. The 70's were simply 10 years of people thinking of nothing but themselves. No wonder we were unable to get together and solve any of the many serious problems facing our nation. Oh sure, some people did do some positive things in the 70's - like jogging - but always for the wrong reasons, for their own selfish, personal benefit. Well, I believe the 80's are gonna have to be different. I think that people are going to stop thinking about themselves, and start thinking about me, Al Franken.

That's right. I believe we're entering what I like to call the Al Franken Decade. Oh, for me, Al Franken, the 80's will be pretty much the same as the 70's. I'll still be thinking of me, Al Franken. But for you, you'll be thinking more about how things affect me, Al Franken. When you see a news report, you'll be thinking, "I wonder what Al Franken thinks about this thing?", "I wonder how this inflation thing is hurting Al Franken?" And you women will be thinking, "What can I wear that will please Al Franken?", or "What can I not wear?" You know, I know a lot of you out there are thinking, "Why Al Franken?" Well, because I thought of it, and I'm on TV, so I've already gotten the jump on you.

So, I say let's leave behind the fragmented, selfish 70's, and go into the 80's with a unity and purpose. That's what I think. I'm Al Franken.
Two girls I knew in high school took him literally and decided that they would do their part for the Al Franken Decade. Back in the early 80s, before the internet, stalking becoming a fan of a minor celebrity was much harder. They wrote some fan letters and then took to harassing calling the NBC switchboard until they put them through to Al Franken's office. After a few calls, they earned his trust enough that he appointed them co-presidents of his fan club. The calls became a weekly event and the girls would invite friends over to say "hi" to Al. I once mumbled something incoherent enough to stun him into silence, but that was my only direct contact with him. It was these two sophomore girls that did all the heavy lifting.

As the fan club officers, their duties included sending out the replies to the other fan letters he had gotten. He sent them a huge envelope with the mail and a bunch of signed black and white headshot glossies of himself. For most of the fans, he just signed generic messages. For the fan club girls he personalized them with witty messages. One read:
Let's have
sex again
real soon.
Al Franken
This is when they realized that they had never quite gotten around to telling Al that they were sixteen-year-old high school students. And they realized they would never be able to display that picture anywhere their parents would be able to see it.

Now that Al has moved on from being a coke-snorting writer of a late night sketch comedy to candidate for national political office (not really that much of a direction change) some enterprising muckraker could hunt down these youthful fans that are now in middle-age like me and dig up some dirt. But I don't think anything from over 25 years ago can count as a scandal since the 80s were a time of open indulgence. And Al Franken. Afterall, it was his decade.

BlatantCommentWhoring™: What fan group have you ever been involved with?


courtney said...

Bob Mould, alternative rock singer. He had a forum for a long time, and I was pretty active on it. I even met some folks who became real world friends.

Jeff and Charli Lee said...

I used to think Al Franken was a riot back in those days, but he seems to have lost his comic edge since he became a political figure. I've only listen to Air America a few times and I wasn't impressed.

MN has had enough celebrity politicians so I doubt we'll elect any more.

Anonymous said...

I never went in for organized fandom of any kind. I once wrote a letter to Seymour, who was a horror movie presenter in LA in the early 70s (an extremely unsexy precursor to Elvira). To my undying shame, I once stood in line at the May Company to get a Star Wars poster signed by Darth Vader. That's about it.

For me, Al Franken will always be associated with SNL's first period of painful unfunniness. TBH, he's never been much more than the flip side of the bloviators he ranted against in order to regain public attention.

Sue T. said...

Courtney & I might know of each other because I was active on Bob Mould's fan forum for years & years too. I'm still a fan -- I went to see him in San Francisco a couple months ago -- and read his blog, although I don't really participate in any of the fan stuff anymore.

I met the man who would become my husband on a fan forum for the band the Loud Family, and we wound up starting a record label and releasing albums by them. I think that's taking fandom to an extreme.

The Mistress of the Dark said...

The Monkees, Erasure and Peter Noone :)

TBG said...

I remember when that first aired. My friend Kathy and I laughed so hard we couldn't breathe. Why was it so funny? Not sure, but it was.

Fast forward 25 years and my son served as "Smithers" for Al Franken at a local campaign event a couple of years ago. Son wanted to go, but couldn't afford the ticket, so he emailed and offered himself as a volunteer.

He says Franken drinks Miller Lite.