Franken Sheds Funnyman Image

Posted August 6, 2009 at 3:28pm

Sen. Al Franken (D-Minn.) tossed aside a career of comedic improv on “Saturday Night Live— and has kept a low profile since joining to the Senate last month.

But Thursday afternoon, he presided over the historic Supreme Court confirmation vote of Sonia Sotomayor, one night after delivering a sober speech about the nominee’s qualifications.

Speaking as “a voice for the overwhelming majority of Americans who aren’t lawyers, the actions of the Supreme Court directly affect the everyday lives of all Americans,— Franken said. “Who we choose to place on the Supreme Court affects every one of us.—

Franken’s floor appearances distant his days playing the down-and-out Stuart Smalley. The 12-minute delivery resembled the kind of measured script the Senator has offered up since arriving to the chamber following an epic recount battle in Minnesota.

The Democrat kept a similarly reserved tone during Sotomayor’s confirmation hearing in the Judiciary Committee, letting just one quip slip in his exchange with the nominee.

“I was a big fan of Perry Mason,— Franken said of the 1960s detective television series that Sotomayor said was part of her inspiration to pursue a legal career.

“It was a great show. And it amazes me that you wanted to become a prosecutor based on the show, because in that show, the prosecutor lost every week,— Franken finally deadpanned to audience laughter.

That was one of the few jokes Franken has made in his monthlong Senate career.

“Minnesotans are very practical people,— Franken said on the day he was sworn in.

Following his first vote on July 7 on an amendment to the Homeland Security appropriations bill, Franken didn’t offer a punch line to the gaggle of reporters eager to interview him.

“It felt great,— he said. “It felt like the Senate.—

And Franken’s work is attracting the praise of his Democratic cohorts.

“I was so impressed with how well prepared he was,— Majority Leader Harry Reid (D-Nev.) said. “The people in Minnesota are so fortunate.—