Today’s Sonia Sotomayor confirmation hearing will be Al Franken’s Senate debut and he’s just about to make his opening statement—the last senator to do so, thanks to his status as the most junior member of the Judiciary Committee. Technically, though, this won’t be Franken’s first Supreme Court hearing: In October 1991, he played Senator Paul Simon, the bow-tied fuddy-duddy from Illinois, in a Saturday Night Live sketch lampooning the Clarence Thomas-Anita Hill hearings. In the sketch, the all-male panel (chaired by Kevin Nealon’s Joe Biden and also featuring a memorable turn by Chris Farley as Alabama’s Howell Heflin) compares notes with Thomas on how to hit on women. Here’s Franken/Simon’s exchange with Thomas:
Sen. Paul Simon: Um … Judge? Judge Thomas? Judge Thomas, are you aware of that, uh … division of our … government … known as the, uh … Criminal Justice, uh … Department?
Judge Clarence Thomas: Of course I am, Senator!
Sen. Paul Simon: Well, you know when you walk in the main entrance of the Criminal Justice Building … there’s this receptionist with short brown hair?
Judge Clarence Thomas: The, uh … one at the third desk on the left?
Sen. Paul Simon: No, no. The one at the big, circular desk, uh … right there in the center there.
Judge Clarence Thomas: Oh, yes—Sandy.
Sen. Paul Simon: Yes. Sandy. Um … do you think that she’d go out with me?
Judge Clarence Thomas: Well, Senator Simon, not knowing your technique, I feel that it would be unfair for me to prejudge your chances with her.
Sen. Paul Simon: Uh-huh. Uh … you think it’s the bow tie, then?
Sen. Joseph Biden: Senator Simon. Please.
Sen. Paul Simon: Women just don’t seem to like the bow tie, do they?
Sen. Joseph Biden: Senator Simon. Please!
Sen. Paul Simon: Uh, sorry. Sorry.
UPDATE: Franken just finished his opening statement—without mentioning any attractive receptionists. Instead, he offered kind words to the committee’s chairman, Patrick Leahy (“for several years I have admired your strength and integrity in leading this committee”), and to its ranking member, Jeff Sessions (“I want you to know that I plan to follow the example of my good friend and predecessor Paul Wellstone, who was willing and ready to partner with his colleagues across the aisle to do the work of the American people”). When he began to praise Ted Kennedy, Leahy interrupted him to quell a ruckus in the room. C-Span’s cameras showed a stream of people being led out of the room, but whether their outburst was aimed at Franken wasn’t clear.