Watch Al Franken, David Letterman Talk Climate in Web Series - Rolling Stone
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Watch Al Franken, David Letterman Talk Climate Change in New Web Series

Comedy legends talk Koch Brothers, renewable energy, former ‘Late Show’ host’s retirement beard in ‘Boiling the Frog’

Minnesota Senator Al Franken and David Letterman discuss the immediate threats of climate change – and the hulking beauty of the former Late Show host’s beard – in new web series “Boiling the Frog.” The six-part project, created in part with National Geographic docu-series Years of Living Dangerously, is available to stream via Funny or Die.

In the first clip, Franken guides viewers through a “thought experiment” to illustrate the rationale of climate change deniers. “Say you go to a doctor and the doctor says, ‘You have got to stop smoking and go on a diet. I see here on your chart that your father died of a heart attack at age 51. This is terrible – you’ve really gotta start exercising.'” But the patient, unsatisfied with this news, seeks out 32 more doctors until hearing the result he wanted.

“Ninety-seven percent of climate scientists agree that climate change is real,” Franken says. “What you and I need to do is prove that we’re organized enough and persistent enough and passionate enough to force Washington to act.”

Letterman, who emerged from retirement last October to visit India for Years of Living Dangerously, joins the senator for the remaining five installments. In the second act, the two comedy legends vent their frustration with Washington inaction, which Franken traces back to the “fossil fuel empire” of the Koch Brothers.

Rhode Island Senator Sheldon Whitehouse, a climate change expert, joins the duo for part three to explain carbon pricing in layman’s terms. In a more lighthearted moment, Letterman shares a hilarious anecdote about picking up disturbing trash – like urine-filled Gatorade bottles – around his neighborhood. “[Letterman’s son, Harry] invariably will say, ‘Hey look, dad, Gatorade!’ And I say, ‘Yeah, I wonder what flavor that is!’ And we both laugh real hard.”

In part four, Franken ponders the future, noting that he doesn’t want to disappoint his grandchildren by failing to to address the climate change issue. He also bluntly assesses the difference between his and Letterman’s comedic talents: “I was a satirist, you see. And you, a clown. And you confuse that.”

The conversation in part five focuses on job creation. Franken argues that natural gas and automation killed coal jobs in Letterman’s home state of Indiana. “We need to embrace the future,” he says, pointing to China as an example for alternative energy. The former SNL writer also questions Letterman’s usage of the word ‘igneous,’ pondering how often he made up words during his Late Show tenure. 

Part six ends on a light note, as Franken marvels over Letterman’s massive retirement beard – even bringing in a “doctor” to collect a sample. Franken also claims he’s more of an optimist than Letterman on climate change due to advances in alternative energy and progress at the state level. 

Boiling The Frog Ep 6: Is He A Doctor Or A Barber? from Senator Al Franken


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