Fredericton — Fredericton Tourism last week faced heavy criticism from the mayor’s office after confusing the new “Fredericton Al Fresco” dining experience with an altogether different “Al Franken” dining experience, inviting the seasoned actor, comedian, author, and politician to the city to entertain at local restaurants during the summer months.
City council had originally planned “Fredericton Al Fresco” to allow family and friend “bubbles” to enjoy restaurant and food truck meals while practising physical distancing in an enjoyable outdoor atmosphere.
Councillor Bruce Grandy, Chair of the City’s Development Committee, commented on the mixup:
“I’ve been all over Europe, so I understood perfectly that ‘Al Fresco’ is Italian for an outdoor dining experience. I thought everybody knew that. Unfortunately, the Fredericton Tourism event planners we hired to deploy this initiative were completely unaware of the term. They thought we meant ‘Al Franken’ and hired the former comedian to perform here 10 times during the summer months free of charge to the public.”
Mayor Mike O’Brien weighed in as well. “Al Franken charges over $100K Canadian per gig, which means we are now contractually out about a million dollars. I just don’t understand how this was missed during negotiations. It’s a disaster, really; we don’t have the budget for this. He’d better be worth it.”
Stacey Russell, manager of Fredericton Tourism, defended her team. “The directive came down from individuals wearing face masks, which made it hard to understand things clearly.”
Since the city had already signed the contract, Al Franken made his first appearance at Cora’s last week, entertaining guests as the early 1990s Saturday Night Live (SNL) character self-help guru Stuart Smalley.
“You’re good enough, you’re smart enough, and dog-gonnit, people like you,” he recited to a cheering audience.
Franken had planned to take advantage of his remaining public appearances in the city to discuss political activism, his time as a U.S. senator, and to counter allegations of sexual misconduct that forced him to step down as senator in 2018. As he began to speak about those serious issues during a RustiCo. appearance, however, members of the crowd voiced their demands.
“No one cares!!!!” yelled 45-year-old Mike Timmins of Keswick Ridge, throwing his brick-oven pizza at the former senator. “Do Stuart Smalley!!!”
“Smalley is really the only character I remember Franken playing,” Timmins told us after the show. “Man, that sketch was hilarious, especially that one time when he pretended to be Macaulay Culkin’s therapist. Comedic gold!”
The following night, Franken attempted once again to speak about his personal and political life at MoCo Downtown. After being booed loudly by the crowd, however, he proceeded to snort several lines of cocaine from a front-row table and went off on a tirade about losing his weekend update spot to Norm Macdonald 25 years ago.
At press time, former mayor Brad Woodside was on the phone with Franken, discussing their limited options for partying together in the city despite the global pandemic.
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