No joke. Al Franken's going for it.

The erstwhile Stuart Smalley declared on Wednesday—the final day of The Al Franken Show, his program on the liberal Air America radio network—that he's officially in the running for Minnesota's Democratic nomination for U.S. Senate. He hopes to take on Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in the 2008 elections.

"Minnesotans have a right to be skeptical about whether I'm ready for this challenge, and to wonder how seriously I would take the responsibility that I'm asking you to give me," Franken says in a video message on his Website. "I want you to know that nothing means more to me than making government work better for the working families of this state, and over the next 20 months, I look forward to proving to you that I take these issues seriously."

Wednesday's announcement was hardly a surprise. Buzz has been building for several years about a possible run by the former SNL star, with Franken himself fueling the speculation by making comments on his talk show and while making the publicity rounds for his bestselling books, such as Rush Limbaugh Is a Big Fat Idiot and Other Observations and Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them: A Fair and Balanced Look at the Right.

A Senate run seemed like a fait accompli last month, when he announced he was quitting Air America's flagship show effective Wednesday. At the same time reports surfaced that he had been working the phones seeking support from members of Minnesota's Democratic congressional delegation and other political friends.

While he may be good enough and smart enough, Franken took pains to allay any fears about his political chops among a constituency that once elected Jesse Ventura governor.

In his announcement, Franken discusses his background, saying he was born in New York  and his family moved to Albert Lea, Minnesota, when he was four, and playing up his middle-class roots and progressive values.

"Your government should have your back. That should be our mission in Washington. The one FDR gave us at another challenging time. Freedom from fear," he says.

"I may be a comedian by trade," he continues, "but I'm passionate about the issues that matter to your family because they matter to mine, too.

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