Column: I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and I lived in Albert Lea

Published 12:00 am Friday, June 21, 2002

An article about Al Franken and his newest book in the May issue of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine reminded me that he once lived in Albert Lea.

In early 1996 several people called the Tribune and told us that Franken, who had written what was then the nation’s top selling book, was a former Albert Lea resident. I checked out these reports about Al Franken, alias Stuart Smalley, and found out they were true.

Right at that time in late February 1996, Franken’s book, &uot;Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and other Observations&uot; was in first place on the New York Times nonfiction bestseller list. Publishers Weekly also reported that the book was the top selling nonfiction title, according to The Associated Press.

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On Feb. 22, 1996, in an interview with Ruth Koscielak on WCCO Radio, Franken confirmed that he lived in Albert Lea at the age of 4. A check with city directories show that his parents, Joseph P. and Phoebe K. Franken, lived at 1211 Dunham Ave. in 1957, and telephone directories have listings for this family for 1956 and 1957.

However, on pages 33 and 34 of the book about Limbaugh can be found the real confirmation that the Franken family once lived in Albert Lea.

Al’s grandfather had a quilting business and decided to open a plant in the Midwest. His son-in-law, Al’s father, was sent to Albert Lea to became the manager of Mid-Continent Quilting Co., which was located in the south part of the city. Quilting, incidentally, in this regard refers to the linings used in winter coats.

Al and his parents and older brother, Owen, moved to Albert Lea from New York in 1955. Because of transportation problems, the Mid-Continent firm went out of business, and the Franken family moved to St. Louis Park in 1957 when Al was 6.

Al Franken graduated from the Blake School in the Twin Cites, and from Harvard University. He became a writer with “Saturday Night Live” on NBC-TV in 1975. During his association with this program he won an Emmy and teamed with another writer, Tom Davis, to perform satirical routines as the comedy team of Franken and Davis.

Franken has played the character of Stuart Smalley on television and in several films. He is also the co-author of the film, “When a Man Loves a Woman.”

The reason for the article about Franken in the May 2002 issue of Mpls-St. Paul Magazine was based on two concepts. One was to feature an except from his latest book which was issued a few months ago. Its title is, &uot;Oh, the Things I Know!&uot; published by the Dutton firm. The subtitle and theme of Franken’s fourth book is &uot;A Guide to Success, or, Failing That, Happiness.&uot; The second concept was to emphasize Franken’s Minnesota connection. However, Albert Lea wasn’t mentioned in this article.

Franken’s first book, published in 1992 by Dell, had the rather long title of, &uot;I’m good enough, I’m smart enough, and doggone it, People Like Me! : daily affirmations by Stuart Smalley.&uot;

The 1996 book about the then rather rotund Limbaugh was his second creation and Franken’s most successful literary production so far.

Franken’s third book was a satirical book based on political campaigning. It was issued in 1999 with the challenging title of &uot;Why Not Me?&uot; Frankly, this wasn’t that great a book in my estimation, plus it really wasn’t too humorous.

Copies of the four Franken books are available at the Albert Lea Public Library or through inter-library loan.

Franken’s latest literary creation, &uot;Oh, the Things I Know,&uot; is also available at Albert Lea’s Constant Reader in CD, cassette and in book form.

Tribune feature writer Ed Shannon’s column appears Fridays in the Tribune.