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Al Franken Lends A Hand To "SNL"

Senate candidate Al Franken provided his old "Saturday Night Live" boss with the inspiration for a comedy sketch that lampooned Republican presidential candidate John McCain.

Franken served as a writer and performer on the longtime NBC comedy hit from its founding in 1975 to 1980, and again from 1985 to 1995. Franken, who grew up in Minnesota, has since returned to the state and is running as the Democratic challenger to Republican Sen. Norm Coleman.

Franken had a phone conversation last week with SNL creator Lorne Michaels, his campaign spokeswoman Colleen Murray said Sunday. She described the talk as two friends of more than 30 years catching up, and she said Franken told Michaels about his experiences on the campaign trail.

In relating a story about recording campaign commercials, Franken noted how all political candidates must say they "approve this message" in their ads and editorialized that he thought it must be a difficult task for McCain, whom many Democrats and pundits have accused of leveling dishonest charges against Democratic presidential candidate Barack Obama.

In the sketch, which led Saturday night's show, McCain is played by "SNL" veteran Darrell Hammond. While recording campaign commercials, McCain is forced to say that he "approves this message" over a series of increasingly vicious and ludicrous attacks against Obama.

Not long after the conversation between Franken and Michaels, "SNL" head writer Seth Meyers contacted Franken and they spoke briefly about the idea, the campaign said. Franken was not involved in writing any of the specifics of the skit, Murray said.

"Lorne Michaels decided Al's real-life experience was funny, and it became an accidental inspiration for a comedy sketch," Murray said.

A spokesman for General Electric-owned NBC did not immediately return a call Sunday from The Associated Press. A spokesman at McCain's Minnesota office said the campaign did not have any comment on the sketch or Franken's involvement in it.

But Coleman's campaign jumped all over the news, citing Franken's involvement as evidence to support Minnesota Republicans' argument that the Democrat's career in comedy and history of sometimes stinging satire make him a bad fit for the U.S. Senate.

"Once again he proves he's more interested in entertainment than service, and ridiculing those with whom he disagrees," Coleman's campaign manager, Cullen Sheehan, said in a statement.

Murray in return accused the Coleman campaign of trying to use the episode as a means of distracting Minnesota voters from more important issues in the race.

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