On Air
0:00
0:00
Open In Popup
MPR News

Al Franken and Tom Davis got their first big break at Minneapolis theater

Share story

Young comedian Al Franken
Comedian and now politician Al Franken got his start at the Brave New Workshop before moving on to become a lead writer and performer for Saturday Night Live. He's shown here with fellow BNW alum Tom Davis.
Image courtesy of the Brave New Workshop

This interview first aired in 1976.

The comedy team of Al Franken and Tom Davis helped to create Saturday Night Live in New York City, but their partnership and ideas for at least one sketch grew in Minnesota. 

Franken and Davis met when they were both attending the Blake School in Minneapolis. They got their first break in show business performing at the Brave New Workshop. 

They returned to that Minneapolis theater in 1976 to perform a bit they wrote which would evolve into a memorable SNL sketch about Richard Nixon's final days as President. It's a conversation between Nixon, his daughter Julia and political advisor Henry Kissinger.

After the show, Franken and Davis talked about the process of creating comedy with Neal St. Anthony who was a reporter with MPR at the time.

MPR marks 50 years
• More stories from the archives
• Join the celebration, tell us your story

"It's a lot of work," Franken said. "It can be pure agony if you're having a bad week."

"Even if you're having a great week it means you're working your banoons off," Davis said.

The pair continued to work together for many years. Franken represents Minnesota in the U.S. Senate. Davis died in 2012 after being diagnosed with neck and throat cancer.