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Al Franken's SNL Years

2:06 PM, Sep 25, 2008 • By JONATHAN V. LAST
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A few weeks ago I suggested to my blog friend Kathy Nelson that she read the excellent SNL oral history, Live From New York, as it contains some revealing bits about Al Franken. I had read the book years ago, however, and had forgotten how damning some of the stuff in it was. Kathy has the goods. Here are a couple choice excerpts which seem to point to defining character traits of Franken's:

Franken: There was not as much cocaine as you would think on the premises. Yeah, a number of people got in trouble. But cocaine was used mainly just to stay up. There was a very undisicplined way of writing the show, which was staying up all night on Tuesday. We didn't have the kind of hours that normal people have. And so there was a lot of waiting until Tuesday night, and then going all night, and at two or three or four in the morning, doing some coke to stay up, as opposed to doing a whole bunch, and doing nitrous oxide, and laughing at stuff.

People used to ask me about this and I'd always say, "No, there was no coke. It's impossible to do the kind of show we were doing and do drugs." And that was just a funny lie that I liked to tell. Kind of the opposite was true, unfortunately, for some people, it was impossible to do the show without the drugs.

And then there's this:

Franken: I had heard Spiro Agnew was going to be on Tom Snyder's show, so I just wanted to meet him and harass him a little bit. I brought a tape recorder and went down to their studios on six. Agnew was in the makeup room, so I sat down in the next makeup chair as he was getting made up and I said something like, "You called student protesters bums, and aren't you the bum?--I think that's what I said--"because you took money?" And he just said, "I never called them bums. That was Nixon." It was like beneath his dignity to address this kid with long hair and to spend too much time on it.

I thought I'd pressed the button to start the tape recorder, but I didn't. I'd had it on and turned it off or something. So I didn't get it on tape. And then I also felt stupid because I checked it out and I was wrong: Nixon had called students bums. At least I did get to say to Agnew that he was a bum.

Leave aside the cocaine and the unpleasant image of a 23-year-old employee running around confronting people who are guests of his employer. What's striking is Franken's casual disregard for the truth. He didn't just use drugs, he also admits to lying about not using them. (But it was a funny lie?) Then Franken accuses Agnew of saying something that he didn't say. Agnew calls him on it. Yet when Franken later realizes his mistake he revels in having made the false accusation anyway.