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

Sen. Al FrankenAlan (Al) Stuart FrankenTake Trump literally and seriously in Minnesota Ninth woman accuses Al Franken of inappropriate contact Al Franken to host SiriusXM radio show 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 McCaskillMSNBC's McCaskill: Trump used 'his fat thumbs' to try to intimidate Yovanovitch GOP senator rips into Pelosi at Trump rally: 'It must suck to be that dumb' Iranian attacks expose vulnerability of campaign email accounts 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 will win back the Senate majority in 2020, all thanks to President Trump Poll: Trump trails three Democrats by 10 points in Colorado The Hill's Morning Report — Trump and the new Israel-'squad' controversy 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 NelsonBottom Line Bottom Line Media and candidates should be ashamed that they don't talk about obesity MORE of Florida said of Clinton.

Sen. Jon TesterJonathan (Jon) TesterTester: Our forefathers would not have tolerated Trump asking Ukraine to investigate Biden The Hill's Morning Report - Fallout from day one of Trump impeachment hearing Veterans face growing threat from online disinformation MORE of Montana offered Franken this tidbit: “You have two ears and one mouth. Act accordingly.”

Both Lieberman and Sen. Mark BegichMark Peter BegichAlaska political mess has legislators divided over meeting place Former GOP chairman Royce joins lobbying shop Lobbying world 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 CarperOvernight Energy: BLM staff face choice of relocation or resignation as agency moves | Trump says he's 'very much into climate' | EPA rule would expand limits on scientific studies Democrats give Warren's 'Medicare for All' plan the cold shoulder Liz Cheney applauds Trump for pulling out of Paris climate agreement MORE of Delaware and Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocrats seize on report of FedEx's Jeff Merkley tax bill to slam Trump's tax plan Overnight Energy: Perry replacement faces Ukraine questions at hearing | Dem chair demands answers over land agency's relocation | Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil 0B Green New Deal public housing plan Ocasio-Cortez, Sanders unveil 0B Green New Deal public housing plan 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.”