Franken Jokes, but Capitol File Kills

E ditors! Can't live with 'em, can't get into print without 'em! We've had our fair share of tangles with the grammar-morals-humor police who approve our paychecks; still, we were surprised to learn that even a comedic kingpin like Al Franken has had a slap-down from editors -- at the newly hatched local society glossy Capitol File.

This fall, the magazine asked the "Saturday Night Live" veteran turned liberal commentator to write a tribute to pal Steve Martin in honor of Martin's receiving the Kennedy Center's Mark Twain Prize for American Humor. But after Franken turned it in, editors decided to pull the plug.

Said Editor in Chief Kate Gibbs: "I didn't think it was a good fit for the first issue of our magazine." Said Franken: "I think they thought it was politically incorrect."

Decide for yourself from these excerpts:

Full disclosure, I never liked Twain. Neither does Steve, despite whatever he says onstage at the Kennedy Center. Let's face it, Twain wrote one good book, one okay book, and a bunch of books that nobody reads unless they have to for school.

The only thing I can think of that my friend Steve and Twain have in common is that they are both unreconstructed racists who rely on crude racial stereotypes for much of their humor. Steve is probably the only white comedian who still performs in blackface and delivers dialogue in exaggerated African American patois . . .

Unlike Twain, Steve will probably not die broke. This is because he has invested in a vast collection of pickaninny art. His collection of ceramic mammies could fill a museum . . .

No, Martin doesn't really perform in blackface or collect ceramic mammies -- but Franken figured his readers would know that. His goal, he said, was to write something that "Steve would find hilarious." Both Franken and Martin, after all, were in the vanguard of ironic chic that remade American comedy in the '70s. The Capitol File editors at first loved it, Franken said, but later raised concerns about the "pickaninny" paragraph, among others. "They said, 'Can you take that out?' I said no. They said, 'Can you rewrite it?' I said no, I was busy."

Gibbs said that although she believed the essay would have been hilarious with Franken's dry delivery, "I was less sure it sang from the page . . . When I stepped back and read it as someone who couldn't hear his voice, I was concerned that some of the funny got lost."

Franken said he's a little chagrined that anyone would interpret the essay as a slam on Martin. "It was their first issue, they were probably nervous or something," he said. "In retrospect, it's pretty funny."

All (Temperatures) Rise for Judge Amin

First Patrick Fitzgerald, then the cell-phone bandit, and now the latest hot-for-Washington heartthrob in the news: Rizgar Mohammed Amin.

The chief judge in the Saddam Hussein trial is already a big hit among Iraqis, and now he's got a Washington fan club (okay, some of our Web chatters) waxing poetic about his handsome profile, neatly trimmed 'stache, lovely silver hair and winsome smile -- when he's not putting Saddam in his place. Let's not forget the dashing 2-inch scar under his left eye, the result of a childhood accident. One smitten chatter called him the "hottest Arab in the news since Hamid Karzai."

But forget about placing that ad in the Baghdad personals ("Passionate Courtroom Counselor seeks Hot Iraqi Jurist . . . "). The judge, 47, has been benched, romance-wise -- he's got a wife and four kids who live in his home town, the Kurdish city of Sulaimaniya. READERS TELL US

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