The former Democratic politician joins a roster of guest hosts that includes Chelsea Handler, D.L. Hughley, Leslie Jones, John Leguizamo, Hasan Minhaj, Kal Penn, Sarah Silverman, Wanda Sykes and Marlon Wayans.
“Honored to be guest-hosting The Daily Show for a week in the new year,” Franken, 71, wrote on Twitter after the guest host lineup was revealed. “Working on Trump indictment material.”
Franken began his career as one of the original Saturday Night Live writers, occasionally performing on the show as well. He further rose to prominence as host of The Al Franken Show, which ran on Air America Radio throughout the Bush Jr. administration.
In 2007 he canceled the political talk show to run for U.S. Senate in Minnesota — where he grew up and was working at the time — narrowly defeating the Republican incumbent. He served in the Senate for a total of one-and-a-half terms.
Sexual misconduct allegations against the senator arose in 2017, beginning with radio broadcaster Leeann Tweeden’s account of being pressured to kiss him during a skit rehearsal while they were on a USO tour in 2006. A photo from that same tour surfaced showing Franken smiling at the camera with his hands hovering above Tweeden’s breasts while she was sleeping. He apologized to Tweeden and she publicly forgave him, saying it wasn’t her intent to hurt his political career.
But after Tweeden came forward, so did several others who alleged that he had inappropriately touched them during photo ops. One woman also said that he tried giving her an “open-mouthed kiss” after visiting The Al Franken Show.
He responded to the allegations in a statement saying that he did not realize his actions were being perceived as inappropriate, adding, “I’ve learned from recent stories that in some of those encounters, I crossed a line for some women — and I know that any number is too many.”
The wave of accounts prompted a bipartisan push to have the Senate Ethics Committee review his conduct, which Franken supported, but before the committee could investigate, Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand and more than two dozen other Democrats called on Franken to resign.
More than a year after his resignation, the New Yorker published an article that revealed inaccuracies in Tweeden’s allegation about their USO tour kiss. In the report, several Democratic senators went on record to express remorse for allowing one of their party’s star senators to resign before due process had been done. Franken also expressed his mixed feelings to the reporter about wanting women to feel validated while also believing he was mischaracterized.
“Two years ago, I would have sworn that I’d never done anything to make anyone feel uncomfortable, but it’s clear that I must have been doing something,” he told New York magazine after a ninth woman came forward in 2019 to allege she’d been groped by Franken in a photo line. “As I’ve said before, I feel terrible that anyone came away from an interaction with me feeling bad.”
Franken has remained a controversial figure whose pattern of making women feel uncomfortable at moments in his career still rings true. But unlike many other celebrities and elected officials who were accused of inappropriate behavior in recent years, Franken was able to earn forgiveness and support from a number of women he’s worked alongside, leaving his legacy more difficult to pin down.
While he reportedly considers a potential foray back into politics, Franken has resumed his comedy career and launched a one-man show called “The Only Former US Senator Currently on Tour Tour.”
His stint guest hosting The Daily Show will test how he is received in front of a national audience after lying low since his political downfall.
If you or someone you know has been sexually assaulted, please contact the National Sexual Assault Hotline at 1-800-656-HOPE (4673) or go to rainn.org.