Over the past few weeks, a number of famous men have faced scrutiny following allegations of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct. Saturday Night Live has had to figure out a way to address many of these allegations, some which have been made against people — such as Louis C.K. — who have been involved with the late-night comedy show. This week, SNL took no time to skewer one of its own, taking hits at former SNL writer Al Franken in a clip following accusations involving the Minnesota senator and a radio host back in 2006.
"There’s so much to be thankful for this year ... unless you’re a human woman," Colin Jost said to open the Weekend Update segment, which draws from the news of the week. Recognizing the slew of sexual misconduct allegations that have surfaced this month, Jost laid into Franken, who is one of the more well-known writers to come out of SNL.
Franken, a founding writer on SNL, worked on the show throughout the 1980s and 1990s before entering politics. This past week, radio host Leeann Tweeden wrote a blog stating she was groped and kissed by Franken back in 2006, when the two were on a USO comedy tour together. Tweeden also released a photo of Franken gesturing toward her breasts as she was sleeping. Franken issued an apology, noting that the photo “was clearly intended to be funny but wasn't.”
Jost began the segment by showing that very photo. "Now I know this photo looks bad," Jost said, "but it also is bad."
Jost mocked Franken for acting like a high schooler on his USO tour with Tweeden, even though the comedian (who was not yet a senator) was old enough to know better: "Sure this photo was taken before Franken ran for public office, but it was also taken after he was a sophomore in high school. It's pretty hard to be like, 'oh come on, he didn't know any better. He was only 55.'"
SNL couldn't resist also taking a jab at Trump, who immediately commented on the Franken allegations, but has stayed silent about Roy Moore, the Alabama Republican candidate for Senate who has been accused of sexual misconduct by nearly ten women. Michael Che joked that even sexual misconduct allegations are treated as a partisan issue in the United States, noting that “In this country, everybody has to pick a side.”
Over the past few weeks, the comedy world has had to reckon with hard truths about the industry. Seth Meyers, who is also an SNL alum, called the allegations against Franken "horrifying" during a segment on his show this week, and joking about Tweeden's wearing army gear in the photo, saying, "Honestly, who could blame women if they started wearing military gear whenever they're around men?"
And on her show, I Love You, America, Sarah Silverman delivered a monologue this week about Louis C.K., who was accused of sexual misconduct by five women in a report published by the New York Times. Silverman, who is a close friend of C.K.’s, spoke honestly about her struggle to grapple with the allegations against him:
He wielded his power with women in f*cked-up ways, sometimes to the point where they left comedy entirely. ... Both of those statements are true, so I just keep asking myself, can you love someone who did bad things? Can you still love them?
Silverman expressed hope that, despite the nasty nature of the allegations, from this point forward, "we will be better," adding "I can't f*cking wait to be better."
As a writer on SNL, Al Franken mocked everyone from Richard Nixon to Ronald Reagan. Now that he holds public office himself — and more individuals are finding the courage to come forward about sexual harassment — he is being accountable for his actions. As people saw on Saturday, even an esteemed position as a former writer at SNL isn't liable to protect you from criticism like this.