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Who Thought This ‘Daily Show’ Duo Was Something Anyone Wanted?

Two gross men aren't better than one.

Oh god oh god. This unexpected piece of political-entertainment news is setting off my fight-or-flight response, but I’m going to lay it out for you here. After Trevor Noah left the Daily Show late last year, Comedy Central has planned a series of generally qualified and hilarious guest hosts to take up the mantle for a week at a time. This week, former SNL writer and cast member, and disgraced ex-senator Al Franken is in the host position and it’s basically giving me hives.

I grew up with Al Franken. I loved his comedy. His ongoing Stuart Smalley sketches on SNL were to die for. As a sixth grader I read and re-read his New York Times number one bestselling book, Rush Limbaugh is a Big, Fat Idiot and Other Observations (before I understood the unnecessary body-shaming nature of that title). And then in 2009, my hilariously liberal childhood hero was sworn in as a Minnesota senator? Great! He’s being looked at as a possible early Democratic contender for president in 2020? Amazing!

Then not so amazing. Kick the can a ways down the road to the midst of the #MeToo movement, when many powerful men who have committed great wrongs are being called out. Leeann Tweeden, a conservative radio host, called out Franken, in great detail, with an account of the truly gross sexualized behavior she says he inflicted on her during a 2006 USO tour together, including an alleged forced kiss with tongue. And she had picture proof that Senator Franken had grabbed her breasts as a joke while she was asleep while someone photographed it. Effing yikes. 

In the following three weeks, seven more women came forward accusing Franken of sexual misconduct. He faced great pressure to resign from both sides of the aisle (including from then-Senate Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, not just Senator Kirsten Gillibrand, no matter how some people choose to remember things) and he did. He resigned without actually admitting that he did anything wrong and also without trying to defend himself.

After a few years of reclusion, he’s back doing comedy, including, apparently, a week-long guest hosting gig on The Daily Show.

Franken’s first guest on Monday night was his “friend”—the extremely damaging, Trump-loving, reproductive rights-hating Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. Franken does, confoundingly, still have a lot of fans and defenders, but it’s hard to imagine even they want to see him interviewing Lindsey Graham of all people.

Sen. Graham was generally an ass on the show, trying over and over for cheap laughs by being gross and over-aggressive. It mainly worked for awkward, uncomfortable bursts of laughter from the audience who are surely being spurred by “please laugh” signs from underpaid production interns. 

The two yucky old white men sparred a bit but mostly played nice. They disagreed over Trump, but Graham said they could agree over the Russia/Ukraine situation, saying, cheaply, “Putin sucks” and that “he should be in jail.” (Putin, that is, not Trump, as he takes time to clarify.)

The only time I didn’t cringe during the interview was when Franken, with a bit of self-awareness, asked, “How could the two of us possibly come off good after this?”

“Or either of us?” Graham countered.

What were you thinking Comedy Central producers? Probably not very much is my guess.

(featured image: screenshot)

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Author and independent journalist since 2015. Frequent contributor of news and commentary on social justice, politics, culture, and lifestyle to publications including The Mary Sue, Newsweek, Business Insider, Slate, Women, USA Today, and Huffington Post. Lover of forests, poetry, books, champagne, and trashy TV.