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Al Franken | Top 10 actors turned politician

Political satirist and former writer for Saturday Night Live.

Al Franken was born in New York and raised in the suburbs near Minneapolis. He graduated from Harvard with a degree in political science, before turning to comedy writing with high school friend and writing partner Tom Davis. The duo were recruited as two of the original writers for late-night television sketch show Saturday Night Live in 1975.

Franken earned three Emmy awards for his work on the show, and returned in 1985 as a performer, creating such famous characters as self-help guru Stuart Smalley, interterviewing vice president Al Gore in character as Smalley in 2002. He hosted a talk radio show on Air America Radio, which ran until he announced his candidacy for the Senate in 2007. He is also the author of five bestselling books.

Franken won the Democratic primary for the Senate in Minnesota in September 2008. In the ballot in November, the initial count had Franken's opponent in the lead by just 215 votes, a narrow margin that prompted an automatic recount under Minnesota law. In January 2009, the results of the recount put Franken in the lead by 225 votes, but his opponent contested the result.

After an appeal in the Minnesota Supreme Court, Franken was eventually declared the victor, and was sworn in as a Senator in July 2009. Since arriving the Senate, he has been a vocal supporter of universal healthcare, and presided over the confirmation vote of Sonia Sotomayor as an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court.

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Caroline Crampton is assistant editor of the New Statesman. She writes a weekly podcast column.