Funnyman Franken Got Start in Stand-Up

Albert S. Franken CLASS OF 1973

Albert "Al" S. Franken '73 is living proof that success is the best revenge.

Franken twice comped The Lampoon, a semi-secret Bow Street social organization that used to occasionally publish a so-called humor magazine. And he was twice cut from the comp.

But that didn't stop the comedian from becoming a writer for Saturday Night Live (SNL) and the author of a Rush Limbaugh satire that has sold more than one million copies.

"I'm probably one of the few people who got from Harvard to SNL without working at The Lampoon," Franken says.

Franken, an English concentrator, worked New York's stand-up circuit while at Harvard and after graduation until 1975.


In 1975, Franken joined the first cast of SNL after he was discovered at a comedy show in Los Angles. He became famous on SNL in the late '70s with his skit "Al Franken Decade," which told the audience how current events would affect him. He was also the creator of Stuart Smalley, an unlicensed therapist character.

Franken performed stand-up comedy in high school but says he came to Harvard with other plans.

"Freshman year, I came thinking I was going to be a scientist," Franken says. "But then I had a crisis when I realized that I didn't like science."

By sophomore year, when then-Dunster House Master Roger Rosenblatt asked about his career goals, Franken was sure.

"He asked me what I was going to do, and I said I was going to be a comedian," Franken says. "I just talked to Roger, and he said that I was one of the few students who actually did what he said he was going to do."

Franken says Harvard prepared him for a comedy career.

"In comedy, you use everything you've learned," he says. "But you don't really have to know anything."

As an undergraduate, Franken says he was involved in Dunster House Theater and also ran a Coffee House at Currier House, which included stand-up comedy and one-act plays.

"I had some socialist get mad at me for charging for the chocolate mousse," Franken recalls of his coffee house days.

While at Harvard, Franken also met his current wife, Frannie, who attended Simmons College in Boston.

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