Al Franken once lobbied, unsuccessfully, to be the "Weekend Update" anchor on "Saturday Night Live." This week, he's getting the next best thing.
On Monday, the former Minnesota senator started a four-night stint as guest host of "The Daily Show." He kicked off the gig with a high-profile visitor designed to give the 71-year-old comedian some added attention.
The guest was Lindsey Graham, the South Carolina Republican senator who forged an unlikely friendship with Franken during their mutual time in Congress. Franken would resign in 2018 after allegations of inappropriate touching.
Their fondness for each other may have robbed viewers of any meaningful debate. The two each squeezed in their differing talking points on Donald Trump, but the chat felt a lot like a photo opportunity with both holding back any serious jabs. Franken even reiterated his belief that Graham was the funniest person he had met in Washington. The extended version of their conversation, available only online, had slightly more meat, but no fireworks.
Franken fared slightly better reading headlines, most of which dealt with Trump facing possible indictments in the near future.
"I've got just one thing to say about that: Finally!" Franken said, playing up to the liberal-leaning studio audience.
Franken had some goofy moments, like diving under the desk when he heard a Russian bomb go off and pretending to be a booking officer who turns on a wind machine seconds before snapping Trump's mug shot
But the show's format kept Franken restrained. He got a lot more laughs during his standup performance at Acme Comedy Club last August, where he did everything from Borscht Belt jokes to a wicked impersonation of Sen. Charles Grassley. He also had sharper material when he guest hosted "Jimmy Kimmel Live" that same month.
Franken has three more nights to make a stronger impression. His guest list over the next three nights includes "Succession" actor Alan Ruck, author Heather McGhee and drag queen BenDeLaCreme.
Franken is the ninth substitute host since Trevor Noah left the show last year. A permanent replacement has not yet been named. "The Daily Show" airs 10 p.m. Monday to Thursday on Comedy Central.