Day: June 30, 2009

Comedian in the U.S. Senate: Al Franken!

Two of the more awkward phone interviews I have conducted over the years have been with Al Franken. Just lucky, I guess? But maybe, just maybe, Franken may have been tentative with me all of those years ago because he knew that someday, he'd become a U.S. Senator. That day, after months of legal wrangling over the votes and recounts from the 2008 election, has come today following a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling, as incumbent Republican Norm Coleman conceded the race to Franken this afternoon. Congrats, Al. The Internet already is buzzing with comments referencing the catchphrase of Franken's Saturday Night Live character, Stuart Smalley: "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me!" Let's toast this moment in time, when a comedian and satirist has joined the U.S. Senate and is now a coworker with the targets he previously mocked, with a look back at some Al Franken moments. Here is Franken on Letterman in 2007, after he announced his Senate campaign: Here's Al Franken with SNL co-writer Tom Davis on Solid Gold doing The Rolling Stones!? With Franken as Mick Jagger?? Believe it. How about Al Franken roasting Chevy Chase? For some reason, though, anything involving Stuart Smalley, Franken's character who used self-affirmation to help himself and others — most famously, perhaps on SNL, one Michael Jordan — is not available to view online...

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In other news…

What's new and making news in the comedy world? Let's take a look-see and find out. Jerry Lewis is going to be making his Broadway directorial debut, a musical version of The Nutty Professor, with Marvin Hamlisch composing. (Variety) Just For Laughs Montreal will hold a "Comedy Conference" for the second straight year during its summer fest this July 23-25. In addition to honoring Todd Phillips as "Comedy Director of the Year" for The Hangover, JFL Montreal will award Etan Cohen as "Comedy Writer of the Year." Other highlights of the upcoming Comedy Conference include panels such as Comedy's Next Generation of Writers: A Look Ahead; The Web: Comedy's New Wild West; Breaking New Ground: Adult Animation Grows Up; Producing Great Comedy: The Secret Sauce; The Business of Comedy on Television: What's Up?; and Late Night: In the Writers Room. (JFL Montreal) The Associated Press surveyed how some comedians, the late-night TV talkers, and The Onion, responded to Michael Jackson's death. (AP) Dane Cook's sister-in-law was arraigned along with her husband (Cook's half-brother) for allegedly embezzling millions from the comedian. (Boston Globe)  Gary Owen, hot off of a deal with Martin Lawrence and Starz to develop a sitcom based on his own life, also has signed a holding deal with Tyler Perry to develop a spinoff for his character from House of Payne. (THR) There's another comedy festival in Aspen...

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RIP: Fred Travalena

All of the recent crazy celebrity deaths certainly got everyone talking over the weekend, but the timing of it all overshadowed the death Sunday of comedian and impersonator Fred Travalena. If Rich Little was The Guy in the 1970s and 1980s to get your celebrity impersonations, then Fred Travalena was The Other Guy. Travalena died from cancer Sunday at the age of 66, at his home in Encino, Calif. — coincidentally home to Michael Jackson's family (after they got famous and could leave Gary, Ind.). Anyhow. I remember seeing Travalena as a frequent talk-show guest with Johnny Carson and others. Here's a clip of him on Merv Griffin's show: You didn't see much of Travalena after Y2K, but he did show up for one of David Letterman's "Impressionist Weeks" a couple of years ago, showing that he was still trying to work in new voices such as Donald Rumsfeld. Well, maybe not all new. But the "morphing" of the past nine presidents (JFK to W.) was a nice...

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