Senator Al Franken on using humor in politics

Comedian Seth Meyers with Senator Al Franken at an event hosted by The Strand bookstore at Cooper Union. (Photo by Maria Rocha-Buschel)

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Minnesota Senator Al Franken spoke with comedian Seth Meyers about the inner-workings of Washington and using humor with his Senate colleagues in an event hosted by The Strand in Cooper Union’s Great Hall at the beginning of this month. The Strand usually hosts book signing events in their store on Broadway near East 12th Street but has recently been hosting bigger events with high-profile authors in the hall, such as an event with Bernie Sanders last December.

Franken, who was a comedian and at one time a writer and performer for “Saturday Night Live,” before becoming a senator, talked with Meyers about the balancing act of whether or not he could use humor in his position in the government.

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Strand to host Harry Potter-themed speed dating

Guests in costume at a July Harry Potter book launch event at the Strand (Photos courtesy of the Strand)

Guests in costume at a July Harry Potter book launch event at the Strand (Photos courtesy of the Strand)

By Sabina Mollot

Harry Potter fans looking to meet that special someone will have the opportunity to do so on Monday, December 12, when Union Square bookstore the Strand will have a Yule ball/Harry Potter-themed speed dating session.

The event was the idea of the store’s communications director Whitney Hu, a Harry Potter fan and a fan of “Puffs,” a satire show inspired by the book and film franchise that originated at the People’s Improv Theater but has since hit Off-Broadway.

Hu said she believes the Harry Potter angle, and the fact that guests are encouraged to come in costume, will help take the edge off what’s normally a very serious event; and she’d know. The Strand has already hosted several speed dating events that while popular (the last one sold out) are still nerve-racking for many attendees.

For this reason, Hu approached the people behind “Puffs” to help facilitate the event. Two cast members will be in character while facilitating a mingling session. While having a session for mingling might seem over-organized, Hu explained this as well. “We’ve had open mingling before. No one mingles.”

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Union Square Park summer event series kicks off today

Children at a storytelling event during last year’s “Summer in the Square”

Children at a storytelling event during last year’s “Summer in the Square”

By Maria Rocha-Buschel

Although the summer weather seems to have taken a break this week with persistent clouds and patchy rain, the Union Square Partnership is gearing up for warmer temperatures with a schedule of outdoor activities to take place in the park throughout the season. Summer in the Square officially kicks off today, offering free activities to entertain both kids and adults on Thursdays until August 13.

Fitness programs will be available in the mornings and evenings, while programming for children will mostly take place in the middle of the day. Jazz performances will take place in the park for the lunchtime crowd and while all of the activities are family friendly, the music performances in the evenings will be geared more towards commuters heading home after work.

Union Square Partnership executive director Jennifer Falk said that all of the activities available are thanks to partnerships with businesses in the neighborhood, many of which have participated in Summer in the Square in previous years. Some new businesses, like Reebok, are participating for the first time since the store on Union Square West only opened within the last year, but this is also the first year that the Strand Bookstore, which has been in the neighborhood for more than 60 years, is getting involved. Falk said that the bookstore will be joining the activities for a story time that centers around a new theme every week.

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