Presidential Debate Turns Sen. Franken Seriously Funny

Monday night's presidential debate has helped re-ignite the comedy writer in Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.).

In a fund-raising email targeted at members of the progressive group, MoveOn, Franken borrows from the in-your-face style that made his books—Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and other Observations"—big sellers.

Franken, the Emmy-winning writer and performer on the early incarnations of Saturday Night Live, talks about the pre-debate anxiety he expects is afflicting not just Democrats.

"That gnawing, fidget-inducing sense of barely-controlled panic about the debate? It has three causes," writes Franken.

"The first is that you simply have no idea what’s going to happen. Is Trump going to somehow hold his ego in check, act like a normal human being, and thus soar over the insanely low expectations he’s built for himself? Or is he going to be a vicious, domineering jerk, pummeling Hillary Clinton with lies faster than she and the moderators can debunk them? Either one makes my blood pressure soar..."

The second, he says, is the uncertainty: "Remember the Republican primary debates? You’d watch and think, 'Wow, Donald Trump is a repellent gasbag! It’s over!'—but then, somehow, his poll numbers would actually go up."

The third is a feeling of helplessness, which he signals can be helped by donating a few bucks to MoveOn to get the vote out.

As have other Democrats, Franken warns MoveOn members that Trump could actually win the presidency.

"The first debate is tonight, and you’re a ball of nerves. Your stomach’s in a knot. You’re compulsively checking the polls. And you're absolutely terrified by polling expert Nate Silver's new estimate that—if the election were held today—Donald Trump would have a 54.5% chance of winning," he says.

Silver characterized the race as "both close and competitive." Or, as he put it more bluntly—"a narrow Trump win would not count as a major polling foul-up if the election were held today."

The debate email is the second from Franken in as many days slamming Trump in a plea for funds for MoveOn's voter turnout effort.

On Sunday, a Franken-penned email took aim at Trump University: "I recently graduated with a Ph.D. in right-wing megalomania ," he said. "Unfortunately, the $120,000 in tuition I spent at Trump U was a huge waste—because it turns out that no training is necessary to discern the fact that Donald Trump is a delusional, power-hungry, narcissistic con man...You and I are awake inside of a nightmare—and if we don’t take action, this nightmare will be our reality for the next four years."

John Eggerton

Contributing editor John Eggerton has been an editor and/or writer on media regulation, legislation and policy for over four decades, including covering the FCC, FTC, Congress, the major media trade associations, and the federal courts. In addition to Multichannel News and Broadcasting + Cable, his work has appeared in Radio World, TV Technology, TV Fax, This Week in Consumer Electronics, Variety and the Encyclopedia Britannica.