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 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.
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:
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.”
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.
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.