SANTA CLARA, Calif. - Al Franken is in his second term as Minnesota's junior Democratic senator, but he's probably better known as a writer and performer on "Saturday Night Live" and a 37-year career in comedy. A capacity crowd of 574 Bay Area members and guests of The Commonwealth Club packed Mayer Theatre at Santa Clara University around noon Thursday to find out if he's still a funny man or if his tenure in the U.S. Senate and the issues he must address has changed him. They found out he can be hilarious as well as serious.
At the very end of his one hour and 20 minutes on stage, he also laid to rest whether he plans to run for President in 2020. He said he's not. However, audience members afterwards said they've heard denials before and wonder if he'll change his mind.
Franken's dialogue was moderated by retired Superior Court Judge LaDoris Cordell. She asked about his family upbringing in a predominantly Jewish community in the Twin Cities area. His father was a big fan of comedian Buddy Hackett, and when they crossed paths one day, Franken shared that with Hackett. Hackett launched into a joke that he shared with the Commonwealth Club audience about a man with a growth on his forehead. The rest of the joke isn't family friendly but sent the audience howling. Franken's penchant for humor set the tone for much of his remarks, many of them from the new book he came to town to promote, "Al Franken Giant of the Senate."
Franken made it clear he is not a fan of Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. He says he has gotten very good at substituting terms like nincompoop and numbskull for stronger, offensive terms to reference some of his elected colleagues. He says he has also mastered the pivot - avoiding a direct answer to a reporter's question by changing direction.
Franken remains critical of Republican efforts to replace the Affordable Care Act that contains a tax cut for the wealthiest Americans.
On the lighter side, someone from the audience submitted a question as to his favorite Grateful Dead song. Franken is a big Deadhead. He mentioned "Althea," among others.
David Louie will share more of Sen. Franken's remarks on ABC7 News at 4 p.m. and 6 p.m. Click here to follow him on Twitter