In an interview for this week’s issue of PEOPLE, the former comedy writer and performer for SNL says he is not interested in the buzz about him running for president in 2020 (“not going to do that,” he says). But he would be game if his old pal, producer Lorne Michaels, offered a return ticket to the show the two started back in 1975.
“If Lorne asked me to guest host, yeah, sure. I would be tempted to do that,” Franken, 66, says. “But I don’t think that’s in the cards.”
Besides, he adds, “The music I hear on there now is a bunch of noise. I’m such an old guy.”
Franken, who brought the show’s iconic character Stuart Smalley to life, was 44 and a father of two when he left SNL in 1995 to write political satire in bestsellers like Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations before hosting a talk-radio show on the progressive Air America network that would serve as his transition into practicing politics rather than just parodying politics. A United States senator since 2009, Franken charts that personal story in his new memoir with the tongue-in-cheek title, Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.
He tells PEOPLE that, while he spent his first six-year term in the Capitol “self-censoring” his natural urge to joke (“I wanted Minnesotans to see that I was serious about the job,”) he still sees humor in Washington’s ample absurdity, especially in this era of President Trump.
The headlines that pop almost daily—Trump firing FBI Director James Comey over the bureau’s investigation of Trump’s ties to Russia; Trump inviting Russian officials to an Oval Office meeting the next day; reports that Trump shared sensitive national security secrets in that meeting—Franken imagines them as sketches.
“The idea that the Russians offered to put out a transcript of their conversation—that’s just funny,” Franken says. “And seeing it acted out in Russian accents might be fun.”
(Turning serious, he adds that the senator in him recognizes the headlines as “pretty alarming stuff” and is determined to see that the special counsel overseeing the investigation in Comey’s wake gets the resources and independence he needs to get to the truth.)
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While awaiting that invitation from Michaels, has Franken ever slipped his old friend ideas for sketches?
“No. Because, one, I can’t get paid for it,” he says. “And two, I wouldn’t be able to be there to shepherd the show.”
Maybe when Season 43 starts in the fall …