The Night Sarah Silverman Stabbed Al Franken
Sarah Silverman was just a kid when she landed a job on Saturday Night Live — only 22! — and early on, she decided Al Franken was a safe space. Although the two didn’t write sketches together or even talk much, Silverman thought he seemed secretly nice under his gruff exterior. That’s why she decided to sit next to him every week on rewrite Thursdays, she revealed in her memoir The Bedwetter: Stories of Courage, Redemption and Pee.
Silverman noticed how Franken could blow up at people but come back the next day and apologize if he thought he’d been too rough. Once, he even apologized to Silverman herself though she couldn’t understand why. Franken’s explanation: “I thought your ‘nice person’ thing was an act, but then I saw you downstairs in the subway station and strangers asked you for directions, and I watched you show them where to go and you were so pleasant, and I know you couldn’t see me, so I knew it was real.”
Okay then, thought Silverman, gratified to have Franken’s approval. But near the end of her SNL run, she proved that she wasn’t always so nice. It was an ordinary day, she wrote, sitting at the writers’ table, chomping on the metal end of her pencil, and daydreaming in hopes of snagging a funny idea out of the ether. “As I noticed the über-sharpened tip of my pencil, my eyes wandered to Al’s giant full-out Jew ’fro (they grow them big in the winter for warmth),” she remembered. “And I thought to myself, ‘I’m gonna spear this pencil right through Al’s big afro.’” (Probably not the actual words that went through her mind but that was more or less the idea.)
“My body set itself in motion in a knee-jerk attempt to reenact what my brain had mapped out less than a second previously,” she continued. “I followed said map exactly. Unfortunately, due to what I realize now must have been a gross miscalculation of where his hair started and his head ended, what I meant to do and what everyone saw with their eyeballs were two very different things.”
What started as a fun prank ended as, well, Sarah Silverman stabbing Al Franken in the head with a sharp pencil. Square in the temple. If someone told you Franken’s response was a horrifying scream, well, can you blame the guy?
It probably didn’t help that Silverman couldn’t stop laughing. “Besides it being a sort of challenging scenario to explain, I also couldn’t explain, as I was literally breathless from laughing — like, hysterically laughing. I was a mad-woman crazy-person with tears pouring down my face. I can imagine how it must have looked. Even the explanation, had I had the breath to clarify, let’s face it, was weirdo weird.”
Did the Franken Skull Stabbing Incident have anything to do with Silverman not being asked back for a second season? “I can’t actually say which I’d rather believe — that I was fired for stabbing Al Franken in the head, or because in 25 weeks, I’d gotten exactly no sketches on the air. I guess I’d prefer the former, since, like any comedian, I’d rather have my sanity questioned than my skill.”
Silverman and Franken revisited the incident last year on The Sarah Silverman Podcast, with Silverman explaining that her intent was merely to lodge the pencil in Franken’s prodigious hair. “I remember exactly what you did,” she told Franken.
“You screamed, ‘WHYYYYYYYYY?’”