Comedians in the Senate (or other high office)

With the Minnesota Supreme Court declaring him the winner of the Senate race, and Norm Coleman conceeding, Al Franken will become the next US Senator from Minnesota.

Although I plenty of politicians who are jokes, Franken is the first person elected to high office that I can think of whose prior career consisted primarily of being a comedian, most notably as a writer and cast member of Saturday Night Live and as the author of books like Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot.

So, are there any other present or former officeholders out there who had substantial prior careers as a comedian or humorist?

I vaguely recall that Will Rogers once ran, or was suggested, as a candidate. Can anybody confirm that?

I wouldn’t be particularly surprised if Benjamin Franklin made most of his income selling his almanacs and other humorous writings. He was a busy guy though, so I think any answer would be debatable with him.

Do you want to limit yourself to the US?

Sonny Bono?

He actually (not-too-seriously) ran for President. His son grew up to be a Congressman.

Jesse “The Body” Ventura was Governor of Minnesota and a former pro wrestler. If any prior profession had less gravitas than comedian, pro wrestler would have to be it.

Thought there are a few dramas peppered throughout his pre-Congressional career, Fred Grandy’s acting CV consists mostly of comedies.

Fred Grandy was best known as a comic television actor. Melina Mercouri, Greece’s one-time Minster of Culture (Is that an elected post or an appointed one?, was best known for a comic role in film.

I can’t think of anyone else elected or appointed to high political office who was specifically a comedian or a comedy writer, although as has already been pointed out, there have been several actors who did a lot of comedy roles. For what it’s worth, the occupations of the people who get elected to the U.S. Congress is a lot more diverse than is commonly supposed. There’s a summary of the former occupations of the current Congress in the following article:

Look at some of the jobs listed there:

Policy analysts

For all the complaints that there are more entertainers getting elected these days, there haven’t actually been that many of them in political office.

How soon will the book
“Al Franken is a Big Fat Idiot!”

hits the bookshelves?

I don’t know what those folks in Minnesota are smoking, but Ventura and now Franken? Oy, do they just not give a crap about their state or what?

In the UK Clement Freud was MP for the constituency of Ely between 1973 and 1987. Before, during, and after his political career he was very well known as a humorist.

In the US, obvious tangential candidates include Clint Eastwood and Arnold Schwarzenegger, who have both played comic roles in films, although neither were known primarily as comedians.

I’ll be back.

Ben Jones, who played Cooter on the TV show “Dukes of Hazzard”, was a two term Congressman from Georgia. Again an actor, but it was certainly a comedic role.

Hasta la vista, baby! :slight_smile:

You beat me to it - I was going to say that some of Arnie’s films were pretty funny (except the comedies).

Nancy Kulp ran for the House, but lost. Almost all of her roles were in comedies.

Also, Sheila Kuhl, who did all or mostly comedy but won in her bids for the California legislature.


I was just watching Franken’s press conference and he mentioned that when Coleman called to concede, he said being in the Senate would be the best job Franken ever has. One of the reporters asked Franken if he thought that would be true, and the Sen.-Elect said he hoped it would be. But you could just barely see him thinking “Back at Saturday Night we used to sit on the couch all day eating junk food, getting high, and watching John Belushi take pratfalls. Pretty hard to top.”


Al Franken is a Buck-Toothed Moron came out years ago (1996). And the cover is a direct parody of that of Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot

If we can include unsuccessful candidates, we should mention Pat Paulsen (for President, six times between 1968 and 1996) and Kinky Friedman (for Texas Governor, 2006). Other notable unsuccessful candidates: Hunter S. Thompson (for Mayor of Aspen) and cartoonist Denis Kitchen (ran for office in Wisconsin, possibly for Governor, on the Communist Party ticket).

Joe Walsh, Frank Zappa, Stephen Colbert and Howard the Duck may have been on some ballots at some point.

Chris Cilliza had a 2006 entry in his Washington Post blog listing a grab bag of celebrity politicians.

Although there are a number of actors with comic roles listed (including an actor-politician that I’m surprised nobody has mentioned yet, Ronald Reagan), I don’t see anyone other than Franken whose primary claim to fame is in writing comedy or performing his or her own material.

That’s a good list. George Murphy of California and Pappy O’Daniel of Texas are two particularly good examples of celebrities-turned-politicians.

And how is that different from the Senate?