It Still Wasn’t Funny: Franken and Letterman’s Climate Change Web Series

July 11th, 2017 4:21 PM

A senator and a retired late-night talk show host walk into a bar. There was no punchline.

“Let’s do a thought experiment,” said Senator Al Franken, as an introduction to his new video series “Boiling the Frog” found on “Funny Or Die.” The series, first published June 10, consists of six videos; five of them co-starred David Letterman. The endeavor is a part of Letterman’s project, funded by National Geographic, called Years of Living Dangerously.

Both Rolling Stone and the Daily Beast called the two men “comedy legends.” Rolling Stone raved over the way the senator addressed the “immediate threats” of climate change, while the Daily Beast was ready to endorse Letterman for the next Indiana Congressional election. “Perhaps someday we will see him [go after President Trump] as an elected leader in Congress,” contributor Matt Wilstein gushed.

The first video was not funny at all. Al Franken stared into the camera, and solemnly stated: “97 percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real.” While that statistic is erroneous and easily debunked, Franken carefully avoided blundering into a pitfall. The statement is ambiguous at best, because the terms “climate scientist” and “climate change” remain undefined. It could have meant that there was a joint agreement on the weather changing. It didn’t have to mean global warming.

But he didn’t clarify.

The second video introduced David Letterman as a guest of Al Franken, and showed the two men guffawing about random statements and then staring off into awkward silence. At one point, David Letterman asked the senator, “It just seems to me that whoever is the leader fighting for climate change then becomes the leader of the world. Why aren’t Republicans motivated by that?”

Franken also explained the oft-repeated conspiracy theory about how the Koch brothers are paying Republican politicians to keep their mouths shut about climate change. According to him, the Koch brothers “want to be secure in their retirement,” but are also apparently the downfall of democracy in America. Why Democrats are still perpetuating this myth remains a mystery, but Franken definitely tried to recycle some old, fake news in this video.

In addition, Franken addressed scientists who don’t believe in climate change. “They are talking through their butts,” he chortled. Letterman laughed in agreement with the senator. Opinions or research that opposed the left’s agenda merited some levity, at least to them.

But what isn’t funny is the fact that politicians are willing to waste so much time talking about something that isn’t even on the top ten list of things to fix in America.

At episode three, it was still unclear as to what kind of points these two were trying to prove. “Ironically, McCain was the best candidate for climate change,” said Franken. Letterman looked surprised, to say the least. Viewers should be surprised too: Franken completely contradicted that statement in a previous episode, where he said Republicans were being paid to say nothing about climate change. It’s easier to believe this politician got his position through voter fraud now.

Senator Sheldon Whitehouse (D-RI) made a guest appearance in this episode, to explain to Letterman the carbon tax (and to praise it, of course). Awkward silence intensified, as it should. He used to accuse Republicans for being responsible for bad weather in Oklahoma.

Episode four and five accomplished nothing. Letterman told Franken about his trips to India, and Franken responded with an out-of-place comment: “The whole point of my job is to improve people’s lives.”

Letterman also tried to reminisce about the old days when people used coal, and Franken asked the comedian in return: “How often did you make stuff up on your show?” To which Letterman responded, “Towards, the end, everyday.” Oh the irony.

In episode six, a climate scientist estimated that Letterman’s beard was “equivalent to an acre of Bolivian rainforest,” in carbon saving terms. It’s unclear whether or not that incident was supposed to be serious or a joke. Rolling Stone writer Ryan Reed referred to it as a “light note.” In either case, it wasn’t funny. (Why is this series on Funny Or Die again?) For so-called “comedy legends,” the whole series fell flat. It reiterated the same tired liberal propaganda.

Al Franken ended the long, painful experience with a statement directed at Letterman: “I don’t want to take so much time on this so that people will think I’m not doing my job.”

Senator Franken, are you doing your job?