It turns out that the complexity of Al Franken’s income taxes isn’t a recent phenomenon. They date back to the Al Franken Decade.
Comedically speaking, anyway.
Hearken back to April 5, 1980, and Weekend Update on Saturday Night Live. It dates from the end of the Not Ready for Prime Time Players era, just five episodes from the final breakup of the original cast. The newsbreak was one of the classics, with Jane Curtin and Bill Murray at the anchor desk.
And, um, Al Franken as the “social sciences editor,” asking that prescient question: “Well, now that it’s tax time, I know a lot of you are thinking, what can you do to help me, Al Franken, do my taxes?”
Here’s how Franken explained the situation 18 years ago (with a tip of the News Cut chapeau to colleague Elizabeth Stawicki, who pointed us to the site):
Okay, now I’m gonna tell you three of the ways that I legally avoid paying my fair share of taxes. I’m not going to tell you everything – after all, this is something I pay my big-time accountant for, whose services are, by the way, tax-deductible.
Now, first – the Al Franken Corporation. You see, I make only $300 a week, paid to me by Al Franken the Corporation. Now, the rest of the money taken in by the Al Franken Corporation goes to paying many of the expenses of its employee – me, Al Franken. Now, of course, the more business expenses that Al Franken, me and Al Franken, the corporation can document, the less taxes I have to pay.
He urged the audience to send in their receipts for any and everything. Books, medicine, food, whatever, noting that, as a comedian, anything could be part of his act and a business expense. “My accountant can do something with it. Believe me.”
Here’s what looks to be a reasonable transcript of the segment. The Internet Movie Database and several other sites indicate that there was indeed a Franken tax sketch on that episode, but no one else seems to have the actual video.
As always, any contributions would be warmly welcomed here at News Cut Headquarters.
Anyway, consider this today’s reminder that there’s a very fine line between tragedy and comedy.
Who knew it’d turn out to be a U.S. Senate race?