News

The New Gen Ed Lottery System, Explained

News

Armed Individuals Sighted in Harvard Square Arraigned

News

Harvard Students Form Coalition Supporting Slave Photo Lawsuit's Demands

News

Police Apprehend Armed Man and Woman in Central Square

News

107 Faculty Called for Review of Tenure Procedures in Letter to Dean Gay

Funnyman Franken Got Start in Stand-Up

Albert S. Franken CLASS OF 1973

By Tara L. Colon, CRIMSON STAFF WRITER

Albert "Al" S. Franken '73 is living proof that success is the best revenge.

Franken twice comped The Lampoon, a semi-secret Bow Street social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine. And he was twice cut from the comp.

But that didn't stop the comedian from becoming a writer for Saturday Night Live (SNL) and the author of a Rush Limbaugh satire that has sold more than one million copies.

"I'm probably one of the few people who got from Harvard to SNL without working at The Lampoon," Franken says.

Franken, an English concentrator, worked New York's stand-up circuit while at Harvard and after graduation until 1975.

In 1975, Franken joined the first cast of SNL after he was discovered at a comedy show in Los Angles. He became famous on SNL in the late '70s with his skit "Al Franken Decade," which told the audience how current events would affect him. He was also the creator of Stuart Smalley, an unlicensed therapist character.

Franken performed stand-up comedy in high school but says he came to Harvard with other plans.

"Freshman year, I came thinking I was going to be a scientist," Franken says. "But then I had a crisis when I realized that I didn't like science."

By sophomore year, when then-Dunster House Master Roger Rosenblatt asked about his career goals, Franken was sure.

"He asked me what I was going to do, and I said I was going to be a comedian," Franken says. "I just talked to Roger, and he said that I was one of the few students who actually did what he said he was going to do."

Franken says Harvard prepared him for a comedy career.

"In comedy, you use everything you've learned," he says. "But you don't really have to know anything."

As an undergraduate, Franken says he was involved in Dunster House Theater and also ran a Coffee House at Currier House, which included stand-up comedy and one-act plays.

"I had some socialist get mad at me for charging for the chocolate mousse," Franken recalls of his coffee house days.

While at Harvard, Franken also met his current wife, Frannie, who attended Simmons College in Boston.

The couple, who now live in New York, has two children: a daughter, 17, and a son, 13, whom Franken calls "good kids." They are his greatest accomplishment, he says.

Franken describes meeting his wife at a Simmons mixer as his favorite Harvard memory. "The others are memories that I can't tell you about," he jokes.

Franken has been at SNL for 23 years, with a few breaks in between to pursue outside endeavors.

In 1996, Franken wrote a political satire titled Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot. The book, in which Franken pokes fun at conservative politicians, sold more than a million copies.

Franken says he is not all about laughs, however.

Franken and Len Bass, the co-writer of Rainman, set out to write a comedy about co-dependency. What evolved was one of the more poignant films of the decade, the 1994 film When a Man Loves a Woman, which stars Meg Ryan and Andy Garcia, and focuses on a tale of alcoholism, family and the tragedy that results from their combination.

"It evolved into what it evolved into," Franken says. "Through the development, it got more and more tragic."

Franken's latest project is a new sitcom, "Lateline", which served as a mid-season replacement on NBC.

Preparing to attend his class's 25th reunion, Franken speaks fondly of his days at Harvard.

"I loved it here," Franken says. "I talk to a lot of my classmates all the time. They're friends for life."

While he's here, Franken says he will be searching the crowds for the 1973 editor of the Lampoon.

"I hope to see Jim Siegelman ['73], who blackballed me, shake his hand--and ask him if he's still writing obscure books on cults," Franken jokes.

Siegelman says it is "tempting to retaliate" but declined to comment on Franken's challenge.

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

Tags