National conventions are often used to cast a spotlight on a party's up-and-comers, and even off-hour slots are fought over.

But noticeable by his absence from the Democratic podium next week in Denver will be Minnesota U.S. Senate candidate Al Franken, who is not expected to be among the featured speakers.

Franken, a comedian known nationally for his political humor, anchored convention coverage for Comedy Central in 1992 and was a correspondent for the channel in 1996. Since then, his books and commentary have made him a star for some Democrats.

But speaking slots will be harder than ever to come by this year, when lesser candidates could go on at odd hours. This time, the convention won't be called to order until 3 p.m., making for a ferocious behind-the-scenes scramble for the few spots available.

Franken spokesman Andy Barr said Franken will fly into Denver on Sunday night, in time for Monday's convention opener, and will return to Minnesota the following day, spending much of the week at the Minnesota State Fair.

Barr said that the Franken campaign did not ask for a speaking slot and that while Franken would accept one if offered, "we don't think it's going to happen."

By contrast, Sen. Amy Klobuchar will address the convention on both opening night and again on Tuesday. The second spot -- a rarity in convention politics -- would be with a group of Democratic women senators on the night that Sen. Hillary Clinton will address the gathering.

In 2004, two years before she became a candidate, an ambitious Klobuchar secured an afternoon spot at the Boston national convention.

Franken will appear at an early evening fundraiser in Denver, thrown by a law firm there, and is expected to address the Minnesota delegation.

Franken spokeswoman Jess McIntosh said that Franken wanted to stay longer in Denver, but that the campaign thought his time would be more wisely invested at the fair, where statewide politicians rarely miss a chance to make an impression with hordes of voters.

Franken has trailed Republican Sen. Norm Coleman in most recent polls and must deal with a small field of challengers who will face him in next month's primary.

Coleman spokesman Luke Friedrich said Coleman is expected to address the Republican National Convention in St. Paul, but no time slot has been determined.

Patricia Lopez • 651-222-1288