I’ll Take Famous Filibusters for $200, Alex

Franken is "Jeopardy!" veteran, but feels at disadvantage as a senator

Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., waits for a key to his Capitol hideaway on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., waits for a key to his Capitol hideaway on Thursday. (Tom Williams/CQ Roll Call file photo)
Posted April 10, 2016 at 6:00am

Al Franken was part of pop culture for the last quarter of the 20th century. Now he figures his lack of knowledge on the subject puts him at a disadvantage as he starts filming his fourth appearance on the TV game show “Jeopardy!” “If that subject matter were work of the Senate, I’d be at a tremendous advantage,” Franken said. “What is, Rule 14?” he said, laughing at his mock answer.  

“What worries me is that since coming to the Senate, I haven’t really had a lot of time on your popular culture side. So, popular culture for, like the last eight years, is a blank more or less,” he said.  

Franken appeared on the show three times before his 2008 Senate election: in 1997, 1999 and 2004.  

Franken doesn’t know who the other two contestants he’ll face will be, but he has scoped out the full list of options .  

“These guys, a lot of them are your Anderson Coopers who are, you know, they have to know a wide spectrum of stuff in their job,” he said.  

“I tend to have to know — I also need to know a wide spectrum of stuff  but it tends to be stuff regarding medical, health education, labor and pensions and energy. I also have to spend a lot of time going deep into it.”  

The funny-man senator recalled playing then-MSNBC anchor Keith Olbermann in 2004. “He was fun,” Franken said.  

“I hope I do it with, like, Louis C.K. or something, because I know Louis is on it. But he will know a lot more from the last eight years then I will,” he added. C.K. is a comedian, best known from his standup and comedy-drama series on FX, “Louie.”  

Franken was one of the original writers when “Saturday Night Live” debuted in 1975. He left in 1995 when Norm MacDonald was selected as Weekend Update anchor instead of him.  

Besides appearing on news shows, Franken has had a couple years off from TV. “I did the ‘Daily Show’ a little before Jon [Stewart] left, and I did Letterman a little before he left,” he said.  

But, the senator doesn’t seem very nervous. “I am not preparing,” he said to laughter. “I’m going to call on my base of knowledge that I’ve had my entire life.” He added that he has never prepared for “Jeopardy!” and is unsure how someone would.  

Asked why he was doing the show, Franken had to think about it before answering, “I have been asked to do something like this but normally would turn it down, but it was a chance to give something to the USO.”  

Franken is playing for the United Service Organizations, which provides programs and entertainment for troops and their families.  

“I’ve done a lot of USO tours and I see what they do. And, it helps our troops,” he said.  

“Jeopardy” is filming Power Players in D.C., for the first time since 2012. Taping started Saturday and ends Thursday at DAR Constitution Hall.  

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