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Dallas Videofest to bestow award on comedian and ex-Senator Al Franken

Dallas Videofest to bestow award on comedian and ex-Senator Al Franken

Al Franken
Al Franken Photo courtesy of Al Franken

For 2022, Dallas VideoFest will present its coveted comedy award to comedian and former US Senator Al Franken, of Saturday Night Live fame.

Franken will receive the Ernie Kovacs Award on Thursday September 22 at 7:30 pm, at Texas Theatre in Oak Cliff at 231 W. Jefferson Blvd.

The Ernie Kovacs Award recognizes television's greatest visionaries, and has been a key component of the Dallas VideoFest since the Festival began in 1987. With the festival currently retired, The Ernie Kovacs Award is now the primary component.

Franken will attend to receive the award from Dallas VideoFest founder Bart Weiss; Joshua Mills, son of Edie Adams and keeper of the Kovacs flame, will also attend.

Immediately following the award presentation, DVF will show the 2006 documentary, Al Franken: God Spoke. There'll also be a VIP meet-and-greet reception with Franken at Oak Cliff Cultural Center. Tickets can be purchases at VideoFest.org.

Al Franken the man the genius
Throughout the 15 years Franken was associated with Saturday Night Live, starting with the very first show in 1975, he wrote, performed in, and produced hundreds of sketches, including the well-known and often recited "Daily Affirmations with Stuart Smalley." Franken won five Emmys for writing and producing during his 15 seasons with SNL.

Franken was also author of four No. 1 New York Times bestsellers, including Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them – A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right, and Al Franken, Giant of the Senate.

Franken served Minnesota in the Senate from 2009-2018, "clobbering" his first opponent, incumbent Senator Norm Coleman, by 312 votes. But he won his second election by well over 200,000 votes. Franken served on the Judiciary, Energy, Indian Affairs, and HELP (Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions) Committees where he routinely embarrassed badly prepared witnesses and was a fierce opponent of media concentration, mandatory arbitration, and Betsy DeVos.

His career was on a fast track until he was forced to resign by fellow Democratic Senators following accusations of sexual misconduct during photo opps. Half were made anonymously and he denied them but never got a chance to settle in court. The New Yorker did a good story running down the facts.

He's since founded "The Al Franken Podcast," one of the top politically-themed podcasts with guests like Malcolm Nance, Sarah Silverman, Paul Krugman, and Chris Rock. His political action committee, Midwest Values PAC, supports progressive Democrats and voting rights.

The first Ernie Kovacs Award was handed out in 1997. Recipients have included comedian Joel Hodgson, Terry Gilliam, John Cleese, Robert Smigel, Paul "Pee-wee Herman" Reubens, Martin Mull, Mike Judge, George Schlatter (Rowan & Martin's Laugh-In creator) Harry Shearer, Michael Nesmith, Dave Foley and Kevin McDonald (The Kids in the Hall), and Amy Sedaris, the first woman to receive the Ernie Kovacs Award in 2018.

Franken says in a statement that he feels honored to receive the award.

"Ernie Kovacs' influence on comedians of my generation is not often told these days," Franken says. "I was maybe 10 years old when I first watched The Ernie Kovacs Show. Like many young avid fans of comedy, I was immediately struck by his wholehearted and brilliant embrace of absurdity."

Weiss traces the connection between Dallas VideoFest and Ernie Kovacs thusly:

"The very first program of our festival in 1987 was Edie Adams showing the work of Ernie Kovacs," Weiss says. "Ernie's innovative spirit has been with us these 35 years. The Kovacs Award became the perfect way to honor those whose comedy change the way we look at TV/Video much like Kovacs did."

Joshua Mills, Edie Adams’s son and keeper of Ernie Kovacs Estate, traces the connection between Ernie Kovacs and Al Franken thusly:

"Al Franken's humor, his dry wit and his irreverent characters are part of a long comedy continuum that connects everyone and everything from Ernie Kovacs to Monty Python to David Letterman, Conan O’Brien and others who helped shaped modern comedy," Mills says. "From Stuart Smalley to Medieval Barber Theodoric of York, it’s about time we usher in the Al Franken Decade in 2022 with The Ernie Kovacs Award."