Monday, July 19, 2010

the soon-to-be-senator from minnesota

disclaimer: those who've known me for a long time would never accuse me of developing a mancrush on anybody (not that there's anything wrong with it ...), and really, it's not, but ... there's something about the way al carries his oddball pretend-irascibility (or is it an irascible pretend-oddballity?), even while working the audience to convince us he's no carpet-bagger, a performance that somehow cleverly morphs itself into something bordering on a kind of — dare i say itadorability?

(of course, smacking bush around does kinda help seal the deal and reminiscing about all the decider's unappreciated genius has become somewhat fashionable at the moment ...)


letterman: ladies and gentlemen ... al franken!
[franken walks onstage, bows, sits]

always a pleasure, al.

franken: always a pleasure for me.
letterman: so where do they tape your microphone?
franken: [bends to look at his crotch] well, dave ...
letterman: heh, heh, heh ...

well now, i don't wanna ... i don't wanna bore you, but you might find some of this tedious ...

franken: yeah ...
letterman: ... but i find it fascinating, ah, a while ago, six months ago? three months ago? a year ago ... you and your wife moved ...
together: to minneapolis ...
franken: ... that's right.
letterman: you're originally from minnesota. how's that goin'?
franken: ... great. great! great, i do my show from there. y'know, i'm the hardest working man in show biz politics, and uh ...
schaefer: [laughing] ... it's a new category to me! hahaha!
franken: yeah, yeah, and, in fact this thing i'm doing tomorrow night, the reason i brought it up, is it's a big fund-raiser for my group "midwest values PAC" ...
letterman: at the state theater ...
franken: yeah, and we're raising money for democrats, y'know, it's called "midwest values" because i feel, i, y'know, i lived here for a long time ...
letterman: thirty years or so in new york.
franken: yeah, and uh, but i always felt like a midwesterner, always felt like a minnesotan. you must feel like —
letterman: y'know, i do, and i feel like i'm at home. i love indiana and i feel that that's a great part of me.
franken: yeah, and that's ... your values are rooted there, and uh, that's what our PAC is about, and uh, that's because i think democrats win ... on values. we stand for things, for example: ah, accountability. like, uh, bush finally, like a couple weeks ago, uh, was with tony blair, admitted that he made some mistakes ... in iraq. right. [applause]

and all he said, he said "i said some things wrong. like, i shouldn't have said 'bring it on.'"

letterman: right.
franken: which is kinda common sense, another midwest value: don't goad the enemy to attack you. [laughter]
letterman: right.
franken: y'know, and it's all that swagger thing, like, at the ... remember at the republican convention he said: "some people see me, and, uh, [adopts bush drawl] they see a swagger, certain swagger. well, in texas we call that walkin'."

in minnesota we call that "being a jerk." [applause]

y'know. walk with, with uh ...

letterman: ... dignity ...
franken: ... some humility ...
letterman: yes, humility, right.
franken: ... humility. ah, bush, y'know, says like he's a big jesus guy. well, jesus didn't walk with a swagger. he didn't go like, [adopts bush drawl] "see that water i turned into wine?" [points to self] "me. that was me."
letterman: heh — not a show-off ...
franken: [still in character] "see that blind guy over there? that uh, he's not bumpin' into things any more? [points to self] jesus." [laughter]
letterman: wasn't a blowhard ...
franken: [still in character] "yeah. that big boulder i rolled, y'know, in front of, i rolled that outta the entrance to that cave where i was dead and now i'm alive? eh?" [puffs out chest] "bring it on!" [applause]

y'know, it's easy — that wasn't jesus. that was ... walk with some, some ... humility.

letterman: that's right.
franken: you can be strong, you can be courageous —
letterman: exactly.
franken: — it's not, that kind of bluster isn't strong. that's not strength.
letterman: now, uh, from where you sit, what are your other observations regarding, now we're nearly halfway through the second term of the bush administration. what are your observations generally of, about things now?
franken: he's ... he's in the toilet.

actually, lorne michaels said something very funny to me. he said that jee— uh, ah, that bush ... [laughter, applause]

... i had jesus on the brain!

letterman: we all do.
franken: great, great prophet, jesus.
letterman: yeah.
franken: as my rabbi told me, he had a lot of great ideas. none of them knew. s'what my rabbi used to tell me.

anyway, ah, bush. lorne michaels said to me, "looks like a, a guy whose show's just been cancelled, but he has nine more to do." [applause]

letterman: heh, i know that feeling.
franken: you know that feeling?
letterman: yeah, absolutely.
franken: like, i mean, obviously the war's just going terribly. uh, if he's going to admit those mistakes, he should have admitted a couple other things. for example, ah, when he said, y'know, that the war on terror is a crusade. that was stupid.
letterman: poor choice of words.
franken: it sent the wrong message to a lot of people. muslims, mainly.

and, uh, y'know the only defense i can thing of for him is that, um, y'know he didn't know there had been a "crusades". [laughter]

letterman: [unintelligible]
franken: y'know, he wasn't a great student. he's admitted he doesn't do a lot of reading.

so i think that the thing he needs to do is hold himself accountable. i think he needs to go on TV and admit the mistakes he made. that he kind of ... misled us ... into the war, didn't send enough troops, uh, disbanded the iraqi army by telling them, y'know, by telling 300,000 guys: "you're fired! we're not gonna pay you, get the hell outta here! and take your weapons with you!" [laughter]

and say: "i'm sorry i tortured — we tortured people." that turned out to be a mistake, because, y'know, their families don't like it. they get angry.

basically, this would be, this is the short version. it'd have to be a six-hour speech he'd have to tell, s'what i'm saying.

letterman: [laughing] ... six hours ...

now, i want to talk to you about your experience with the american military. and recently you gave the commencement at west point.

franken: it wasn't the commencement. it was just a ...
letterman: just a "how'ya doin'?" you just dropped in ... ?
franken: it was, it was sort of in-between.
letterman: OK. we'll be right back here with al franken, everybody.
[commercial break]
letterman: ... and i said, mistakenly, you'd given the commencement at west point, and i think, uh, president bush actually gave the commencement.
franken: yeah, they just ask him to do the commencement, i just ...
letterman: you were not there for the commencement.
franken: ... gave the sol feinstone lecture on the meaning of freedom. this is last — i had my book out at the time, "the truth, with jokes", this was, i was at west point. it was an audience not so different than this one. [laughter] uh, except, it was all cadets.
letterman: that's right. that would be the one small difference.
franken: yeah and i was supposed to talk about the meaning of freedom, and my book "the truth, with jokes" was out at the time and basically, after jollying them up with some jokes, um, i got them on my side, and i told them that the president had lied us into the war, and uh, i said you can't have freedom without the truth. you can have freedom without jokes, as the dutch and the swiss have proven. [laughter]

but, they um, gave me a standing ovation, and they —

letterman: really?
franken: yeah. i think that, i really admire them, as you said, i've gone over a number of times on USO trips and — a lotta people think that it's dangerous. it's not. i remember that — you're surrounded by the USO, by ...
letterman: the army.
franken: by the, yeah, by the ... you're embedded and they don't want anyone in the USO to get ...

a coupla years ago i'd done my first one in iraq. i was at a party in hollywood and there was all these celebrities there and i got a little bit overwhelmed and i went to sit in the library and i was — i thought i was alone and i hear this voice: [in deep low voice] "hey, al ..."

yeah, i looked around and it was sylvester stallone.

letterman: oh ...
franken: and i said, uh "hey ... uh ... sylvester." 'cause i didn't know ... [laughter]
letterman: riiight ...
franken: and he said, [in deep low voice] "i understand you went on one of them USO tours." i said "yeah it was great." he said [deep] "yah, well, i was supposed to go, but i didn't."

and i said "well, why didn't you go?" he said [deep] "well, i thought it might be too dangerous." i said "well, it's not really that dangerous ..." i said exactly just what i said to you and he said [deep]"yah well lemmee ask ya this: was there ever any moment when you felt in danger for your life?" [laughter]

and i said well, OK we did have one point where we took helicopters from baghdad to tikrit and then back again, and some ... had been shot down, so i thought maybe one-in-ten-thousand chance that — [deep] "yah well, that's why i didn't go." [laughter]

i said to him "weren't you, weren't you friggin' rambo?" [laughter, applause]

letterman: friggin' ... friggin' rambo ...
franken: i didn't say "friggin'", but ...
letterman: [unintelligible] rambo ...
franken: he was actually very honest and said [deep] "yah, but i like my life. i got a good life."

that's how i got the west point guys on my side. i told them that story.

letterman: yeah, that's a pretty good story ...
franken: true story.
letterman: what's he doin' in the library, fer god sakes ... ? [laughter]
franken: uh, i, ah ...
letterman: honestly, that's bizarre.
franken: he might've followed me in.
letterman: uh, just wanna quickly, ah, because we're all interested in your political future, if you have one, perhaps running for office, and i think the interesting thing, and important to point out, is you've been married for quite a few years and that's very important. you should use that in your campaign. people like, uh, marriage solidarity. and you certainly represent that, you and your wife have been married how, how long?
franken: um, thirty years, many of them happy. [laughter, applause]
letterman: that's good.
franken: thank you. thank you.
letterman: don't be afraid to use this, for your campaign.
franken: um, i credit fear.
letterman: hm.
franken: yes, i just, ah, am afraid of being alone. and uh, we have kids. that's —
letterman: that's good, sure.
franken: really ... i, uh, i find her incredibly annoying in a lotta ways. [laughter]
letterman: talkin' about your wife now?
franken: yah, um ...
letterman: you might wanna soft-pedal this out on the campaign trail ...
franken: yeah ...

well, it's little things! it's just always little things. she does a lot of like ... she decides to say stuff to me as soon as i've walked out of the room.

so i spend a lot of time saying: "i can't, i can't hear you!" [laughter]

but we ... "i'm in another room!" and um ...

y'know, but we, we met, uh, freshman — can i tell you the story of my, uh ... when my daughter was six years old — 'cause kira's segment was so lovely — i was at my daughter's teacher, when my daughter was six years old, asked her to write a story, asked every kid to write a story how their parents met. and, so, um, we told her: we met freshman year in college at a mixer, i said i saw your mom across the room gathering these, uh, other girls to leave. she was trying to get 'em to leave and i loved the way she like, was taking charge. in retrospect ... [waves hands dismissively] ... and anyway, um, i said — and she was beautiful! she was beautiful! y'know, beautiful, so i asked her to dance, then i, uh, bought her a, got her a ginger ale, and then i escorted her to her dorm and asked her for a date.

so my daughter wrote: "my dad asked my mom to dance, bought her a drink and took her home." [applause] and ...

letterman: hehhehheh, well ... nothin' wrong with that either!

tomorrow night at the state theater in minneapolis. i'm sure it'll be an enjoyable evening.

franken: it, um ... the website, just in case you wanted to get tickets in minneapolis, midwestvaluespac.org, and that, that is not to be confused with liveorg.org, which is where you get live organs ...
letterman: heh heh heh. alright ...
franken: ... live human organs, which is another one of my ...
letterman: no, you wouldn't wanna get those —
franken: our organs are human.
letterman: yeah, that's right. good.
franken: midwestvaluespac.org.
letterman: thank you very much, al. always a pleasure. nice to see you.
franken: thanks.

(hat tip to one good move)

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