The Al Franken Political Roast: Republicans

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Al Franken is a Jewish Harvard graduate who made a name for himself in the 1970s during the inception of NBC’s Saturday Night Live. His wit shone through as a writer and then as an actor for the popular satirical show. When Franken’s role as the anchor of the “Weekend Update” came to an end, he picked up a pen and put his whimsical words on paper. Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations was the product of Franken’s liberalism and humor. Franken’s first political satire plays on the self-inflicting wounds of the conservative Republican Party – most notably Rush Limbaugh, Newt Gingrich, Pat Buchanan, and Phil Gramm. The New York Times bestseller from 1996 hilariously satirizes the hypocrisy, erroneousness, and physique of the Grand Old Party.

Firstly, it is important to note the reasons why Jews are so prominent in politics and comedy. Jews have traditionally been the downtrodden of society: they have been perceived as Christ killers, financial exploiters, and deceitful traitors. Slayed during the Spanish Inquisition, by the Klu Klux Klan, and in the Holocaust, Jews have attempted to make progress for equality and equity. The passion for progress has driven many Jews into politics – overwhelmingly leaning towards liberalism and away from traditional intolerance. Politics is the platform for change. While Jews only constitute approximately 2.1% of the United States population, they account for 10% of the senate and 5% of the House of Representatives. However, out of all 32 Jewish congressmen, there is only one member of the Republican Party. In fact, Al Franken has recently been elected as senator of Minnesota under the Democratic Party. Furthermore, Jews have the highest percentage voter turnout out of all ethnic groups in the United States with 84%! As you can see, Jews are very active in politics, yearning for progress.

What makes Jews so disproportionately active in comedy? Carl Reiner answered this question, “The truth of the matter is, persecuted people have two things they can do to win their point: they can punch back, or they can defuse it with laughter." Jews usually resort to the latter. In the beginning of the 20th century, American Jews were caught in between two cultures – their Jewish tradition and the secular American way. This confusion and uncertainty created cognitive dissonance in the new generation of American Jews. Anxiety was a symptom of being a minority and feeling on the outside of American culture. To combat the feelings of being an outsider, Jews would poke fun at themselves and their heritage. A major staple of Jewish humor is self-deprecating jokes. Making fun of oneself builds immunity to when others are making fun at them. Jews were looked upon as alien, and they embraced this through their humor. They used their wit as a device to assimilate and have American society become accustomed to Jewish heritage. With the rise in popularity of Jewish comedians, there was a growing sense of normalcy for...

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