Knowing When Al Franken & I Can and Can’t Tell Jokes – Madeleines From Reading Al Franken, Giant of the Senate

First, here’s the quickie summary: Al Franken, Giant of the Senate by Al Franken is an entertaining book, rife with humor and insights into how the contemporary political system works – or doesn’t work. But, Franken doesn’t mask his politics so if you don’t care for his liberal positions, you will have a monumental obstacle to overcome to see the book for what it is:  a memoir.  My advice is – don’t bother. On the other hand, for those who reside in the same political spectrum, this is highly recommended reading.

My primary focus, however, is on the necessity for self-censoring the funny stuff.  Franken offers several instances from his career in the Senate when his  jokes were taken the wrong way. My favorite example was his habit of elbowing his way through the line of visitors waiting to enter the Senate (rather than waking through the no-waiting Senators-only entrance), all the while muttering – as a joke – “More important than you, more important than you.” That earned enough grins and chuckles from the enlightened to perpetuate the shtick until Yankee first baseman Mark Teixeira took offense and tweeted, “@AlFranken let me know ‘He is more important than me.” The real punchline follows Franken’s report that his staff “said no” to lots of jokes he wanted to make (e.g., calling a dissent by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia “very gay”):

But they didn’t say I couldn’t put it in a book someday!

As my medical school classmates will confirm,  I had a similar problem. When, for example, an attending physcian or a chief resident would ask an incredibly obscure question to humiliate the med students (e.g., “What is the average pH of the amniotic fluid of pregnant, Aleutian, opioid-addicted, bisexual women?), I would routinely respond, in a Frankenesque mutter, “Well, I know, but I’m not telling everybody else.”)  That routine ended when a surgical resident used my comment as the springboard for a diatribe on the need to work as a team and share information. And then those are those Leonard Cohen fans who – unlike Leonard himself – didn’t see the humor of, for example, the Leonard Cohen bobblehead.



Anyway, Al has convinced me – I just gotta wrote a book for all those jokes I couldn’t tell in real life.

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