The Austin Chronicle

Sen. Al Franken to Open Texas Tribune Festival in September

By Kimberley Jones, August 15, 2017, 6:30am, Newsdesk

In a thrifty pickup from the distinguished speaker emporium, the Texas Tribune Festival announced today it’s locked down both a statesman and a brilliant satirist, economically packaged in one person: self-described “Giant of the Senate” Al Franken.


Sen. Franken, of course, has tongue firmly in cheek with that sobriquet; it’s the title of his bestselling May memoir, which will be the subject of his sit-down chat with Trib CEO and co-founder Evan Smith, in a conversation set to open the fest on Sept. 22.

In his book, the junior senator from Minnesota (and, one presumes, also its funniest) details how, when he first took office in 2008, he had to distance himself from his early career as a writer/performer for Saturday Night Live and author of barbed comic books like Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right (which enjoyed a free publicity plumping when Fox News unsportingly filed a civil lawsuit, swiftly dropped). As Franken explains, political opponents on the campaign trail selectively pulled “examples of stuff I’d said or written over 35 years in comedy that Republicans said proved I was profane, rude, and just plain out of touch with Minnesota values.”

“This was my first brush with the DeHumorizer™, a $15 million machine Republicans built using state-of-the-art Russian technology. The DeHumorizer™’s function was to take a joke and strip away everything that made it, well, a joke.”

So Sen. Franken benched, at least publicly, his funny side for a while: “… I’ve come up with a strategy to avoid falling prey to the Republicans’ DeHumorizer™: I built one of my own. It’s called my staff.”

But a lot has happened in the past 10 years – including a comfortable re-election win in 2014 – and the new book signals something of a reintroduction of Franken’s comic touch. The timing is fortuitous. Touching down in a blue city in a red state – and a county that the governor has openly declared war on – he’s sure to find plenty of material here.

The seventh annual Texas Tribune Festival takes place Sept. 22-24 on the University of Texas campus in Austin. Visit the Texas Tribune Festival website for more information on speaker lineup and ticketing.
Chronicle readers can get $50 off their Festival ticket with the promo code: Chronicle

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