Al Franken is no stranger to telling jokes onstage. Before being elected to the Senate in Minnesota in 2008, Franken was a comedian who broke out as a performer and writer for Saturday Night Live starting in the 1970s. But after moving to Washington, he put his head down, retired his standup routine, and focused on the legislative grind.
Until tonight, that is. Donald Trump’s unlikely rise appeared to inspire something in Franken, who dipped back into comedy at the Democratic National Convention in order to attack the GOP nominee. Franken introduced himself by saying he’d earned a "doctorate in megalomania studies from Trump University."
"Sure, I had to empty out my 401(k) and take a reverse mortgage on my house to pay tuition, but Mr. Trump, or rather some people who say they once met him, convinced me that it was worth it," Franken joked.
Here Franken was riffing on the multiple lawsuits being filed against Trump’s eponymous university. The suits claim, more or less, that the whole setup is just a scam that has caused hundreds of thousands of people significant financial loss.
"And frankly, as a proud alum of Trump University," he said, "I think we may be underestimating Donald Trump. Sure, he scammed lots of people, but did you know that Trump University School of Ripping People Off is ranked second in the nation? Right behind Bernie Madoff University."
Franken knocked the university’s so-called "success experts. Like Scott Baio, Mike Tyson, and, of course, a life-size cardboard cutout of Mr. Trump himself." He added: "Their bankruptcy program is known throughout the real estate community for its creativity. The most popular course — Bankruptcy 101: How to Leave Your Partners Holding the Bag. It is taught by the cardboard cutout himself."
Then, of course, there’s the required reading: "All of Donald Trump's best-sellers are available for sale at a special rate for students, which is 10 percent higher than the retail price. Clearly, Donald Trump's enormous — dare I say huuuge — success as a businessman qualifies him to be president. And if you believe that, I have some delicious Trump steaks to sell you."
Franken closed out his speech by making an appeal to voters who may be on the fence about their decision, or Bernie Sanders supporters in attendance who have vowed to vote against Clinton.
"I won my first race for senate by 312 votes. Where is my Minnesota delegation?" he called, drawing response from them. "There are people up there who contacted more than 312 people themselves, and literally I would not be here. [They're] the reason I'm giving the speech here and not into my bathroom mirror."