Al Franken's long, tortured explanation of editorial-cartoon humor

Senator Al Franken forgets the first rule of humor in this excruciating nine-minute speech on the Senate floor: if you have to explain a joke, it’s not funny. Rising in defense of Chris Dodd’s financial-reform bill, Franken attempts to use Washington Post editorial cartoonist Tom Toles’ entry on ratings agencies, a cartoon that more or less explains itself. That doesn’t stop Franken from boring in on every obvious detail … emphasis on boring:

Andrew Malcolm warns that this isn’t a Saturday Night Live skit, although it’s almost as long and tiresome as one:

And we realized suddenly that somehow we had inexplicably missed the comedian’s detailed explanation of a newspaper editorial cartoon enlarged so that he could identify the symbols and characters in it so the elderly senators could see it. The current White House’s pedantry is apparently infectious.

Additionally, Franken takes many moments to explain the drawing and its symbols as documentation for his argument for more government regulation of yet another part of the financial industry.

No, this is not a “Saturday Night Live” skit. This is the real thing from the Senate floor where the 100 members are paid $174,000 — each — for this work. The folks back home must be very proud of the honorable gentleman.

The entire point of using Toles’ cartoon never really gets explained. Does Toles’ cartoon somehow prove that Dodd’s bill works? Did Franken waste nine minutes of floor time on a cartoon because he didn’t have any actual data or analysis of his own? Or did the pride of Minnesota’s DFL not realize that it’s a cartoon, and it doesn’t show anything at all except Toles’ opinion on the matter?

Franken may not be funny … but he’s certainly a joke.

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