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Documenting Al Franken

In his new documentary, Al Franken is a changed man.

12:00 AM, Oct 13, 2006 • By LOUIS WITTIG
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The Q&A quickly degenerated into an EIC&A (extended inconsequential comment and answer). Someone in the audience's sister knew people who knew people in Wisconsin who voted twice in 2004. Another guy said he tried to join the Marines, but they wouldn't let him because he was Iranian. In the beginning of his documentary, Franken was corrected on a minor point by a college student at another Q&A event. In the film, Franken playfully runs over and pretends to beat the kid up. It's funny. Now, Franken is cooler. He dignified each rambling remark with a polite response that morphed into a talking point.

Someone asked how liberals could get a cohesive message out. Communicate that Democrats are for the public interest, Franken responded. He then welled up with emotion. Franken sniffled and his voice wobbled as he added that "we need to be telling stories about my wife Frannie . . . and how she grew up."

The Franken shtick was gone; replaced with a Clintonesque routine of pain-feeling. But yet he was somehow still the same. He was still performing--putting on an act that would bring people to him.

At one point, Franken started talking about the dreadful state of today's America. "I want to cry a lot of the time," he said. It was vintage Stuart Smalley, except that Franken was serious. And on cue--a snivel, a near sob, and possibly (it was hard to see from the back row) another tear.

Louis Wittig is a media writer in New York.