Advice for Al Franken: Shut up and listen (but it’s OK if you laugh, too)

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's 12:30 Report: Mexican officials scramble to avoid Trump tariffs The Hill's Morning Report - Tariff battle looms as Trump jabs 'foolish' Senate GOP MORE has been suppressing his funny bone since launching his bid for the upper chamber, but some of his new Democratic colleagues say the Minnesota Democrat will need his sense of humor to survive in the nation’s capital.

Among an abundance of suggestions for the former “Saturday Night Live” writer/actor is this common piece of advice for the Senate: Be serious, but not too serious.
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During a short speech at Tuesday’s Democratic caucus lunch, Franken said he was in Washington to work and pledged a studious attitude. Several Democrats say such an approach helped his campaign last year and throughout the ensuing eight-month legal battle with former GOP Sen. Norm Coleman. After a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling last week, Franken was sworn in on Tuesday.

But several other Democrats claim that too much stodginess can also be unhealthy in an institution already known for a grinding, plodding pace.

“I do think a sense of humor helps around here,” said Sen. Claire McCaskillClaire Conner McCaskillConservatives spark threat of bloody GOP primaries Congress needs to work to combat the poverty, abuse and neglect issues that children face Lobbying world MORE (Mo.). “He’s very sensitive to the fact that he should and will be taken seriously, and so I think his sense of humor will play a supporting role, not a leading role. But it’s a very important part of this place. Sometimes we take ourselves entirely too seriously.”

Similarly, Joe Lieberman (I-Conn.), who caucuses with Democrats, noted the pressure and egos that exist in the Senate.

“You’ve got to have the ability to laugh at yourself,” Lieberman said. “He’ll be a serious senator, but he shouldn’t lose his sense of humor. It’ll help.”

Other advice for Franken from his new colleagues included some key suggestions from fellow freshmen such as Mark UdallMark Emery UdallDemocrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  Democrats hope some presidential candidates drop out — and run for Senate  Denver Post editorial board says Gardner endorsement was 'mistake' MORE of Colorado, who urged Franken to relax, use his staff and enjoy the experience.

“It’s the best job in the world and it’s an exciting time to be here, so hopefully he’ll take the time to enjoy the feeling of accomplishment and success,” Udall said. “Just enjoy a little bit of honeymoon. He’s been chosen by the people of Minnesota, so he should feel inspired. And he doesn’t have to learn it all in one day.”
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But because the pace will be quick, many Democrats agree with Franken’s early penchant for focusing and listening, noting such a keep-your-head-down strategy helped Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton quickly gain credibility while serving in the Senate.

“She said she wanted to be a workhorse, not a show-horse,” Sen. Bill NelsonClarence (Bill) William NelsonHow Jim Bridenstine recruited an old enemy to advise NASA Republicans amp up attacks on Tlaib's Holocaust comments The muscle for digital payment MORE of Florida said of Clinton.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterOvernight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Overnight Defense: US to send 1K more troops to Mideast amid Iran tensions | Iran threatens to break limit on uranium production in 10 days | US accuses Iran of 'nuclear blackmail' | Details on key defense bill amendments Democrats aim to block defense money from being used on Trump border wall MORE of Montana offered Franken this tidbit: “You have two ears and one mouth. Act accordingly.”

Both Lieberman and Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichFormer GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world Dem governors on 2020: Opposing Trump not enough MORE of Alaska suggested that Franken find a handful of core issues on which to focus — and to be patient and invest in relationships.

“Do your homework on issues that you care about,” Begich said. “Drill down deep and know those three or four or five issues … And know that it’s all about relationships here, and finding out where everyone else is.”

Sens. Tom CarperThomas (Tom) Richard CarperBipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Bipartisan senators propose forcing EPA to set drinking water standard for 'forever chemicals' Overnight Energy: Prosecutors drop charges over Flint water crisis | US blames Iran for attack on oil tankers | Air Force diverted M for chemical cleanup costs | Criminal cases referred by Interior at near 25-year low MORE of Delaware and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories Democratic White House hopefuls push to expand health care in US territories Hillicon Valley: Assange hit with 17 more charges | Facebook removes record 2.2B fake profiles | Senate passes anti-robocall bill | Senators offer bill to help companies remove Huawei equipment MORE of Oregon said Franken would also be smart never to forget his roots.

“Continue to go home a lot,” suggested Carper.

“Use your whole set of life experiences,” Merkley said. “This institution is stronger with the diversity of backgrounds everybody brings.”