Al Franken's Reading List

The best-selling comic on great news sources and his favorite liars

| January / February 2004

Al Franken is on a tear. After a long and successful career, beginning on Saturday Night Live and continuing with his own network TV sitcom and the No. 1 best-seller Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot, his latest book, Lies (And the Lying Liars Who Tell Them): A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, was a bestseller even before it hit bookstores. That was thanks in part to a lawsuit filed by fox News alleging that the book's subtitle violated the company's "Fair and Balanced" trademark. The suit was laughed out of court. Literally. The judge characterized it as "wholly without merit," driving home the point, as Franken describes it, that "satire is protected speech, even if the object of the satire doesn't get it." In the book, he and TeamFranken -- 14 research assistants assigned to him during a recent fellowship at Harvard's Kennedy School of Government -- take on the task of fact-checking leading figures in the right-wing media punditocracy -- Bill O'Reilly, Ann Coulter, Sean Hannity, Bernard Goldberg, and many others.

Franken's no-holds-barred style, brilliantly mixing sneering satire with incontrovertible facts, draws cheers and jeers. Progressive voters sick of being kicked in the teeth by the right are packing his book tour appearances -- 1,500 showed up at a bookstore in Austin, Texas, Dubya's old stomping grounds. Conservatives, most notably Bill O'Reilly and his fox News colleagues, have been stumbling all over themselves to counter his criticisms. Before a recent book tour appearance in St. Paul he took a few minutes for an impromptu chat with Utne about his own media consumption while getting his shoulders and back rubbed by a masseuse.