Stuart Smalley
Stuart Smalley is a fictional character invented and performed by satirist Al Franken
Al Franken
Alan Stuart "Al" Franken is the junior United States Senator from Minnesota. He is a member of the Minnesota Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party, which affiliates with the national Democratic Party....

. The character originated on the television show Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...

, in a mock self-help
Self-help, or self-improvement, is a self-guided improvement—economically, intellectually, or emotionally—often with a substantial psychological basis. There are many different self-help movements and each has its own focus, techniques, associated beliefs, proponents and in some cases, leaders...

 show called "Daily Affirmation With Stuart Smalley." It first aired on SNL's February 9, 1991 episode hosted by Kevin Bacon
Kevin Bacon
Kevin Norwood Bacon is an American film and theater actor whose notable roles include Animal House, Diner, Footloose, Flatliners, Wild Things, A Few Good Men, JFK, Apollo 13, Mystic River, The Woodsman, Trapped, Friday the 13th, Hollow Man, Tremors, Death Sentence, Frost/Nixon, Crazy, Stupid, Love....

. Stuart is Franken's middle name.

The character was a spoof on individuals who are obsessed with twelve-step program
Twelve-step program
A Twelve-Step Program is a set of guiding principles outlining a course of action for recovery from addiction, compulsion, or other behavioral problems...

s and become addicted to the actual act of going to therapy
Psychotherapy is a general term referring to any form of therapeutic interaction or treatment contracted between a trained professional and a client or patient; family, couple or group...

 for addiction. Stuart is a member of many (sometimes fictional) twelve-step groups, including Overeaters Anonymous
Overeaters Anonymous
Overeaters Anonymous is a twelve-step program for people with problems related to food including, but not limited to, compulsive overeaters, those with binge eating disorder, bulimics and anorexics...

, Children of Alcoholic Parents Anonymous, and Children of Rageaholic Parents Anonymous. He is an effeminate man with a perfectly coiffed bleached-blonde hairdo, who regularly wears a yellow button down shirt with a powder blue cardigan.

It is frequently hinted that Stuart may be gay
Gay is a word that refers to a homosexual person, especially a homosexual male. For homosexual women the specific term is "lesbian"....

, but his sexual orientation
Sexual orientation
Sexual orientation describes a pattern of emotional, romantic, or sexual attractions to the opposite sex, the same sex, both, or neither, and the genders that accompany them. By the convention of organized researchers, these attractions are subsumed under heterosexuality, homosexuality,...

 is never clearly stated. All his romantic partners have names which could be male or female, like Dale, Chris, or Merle. His father gripes, "You'd drink too if you had Liberace
Wladziu Valentino Liberace , best known simply as Liberace, was a famous American pianist and vocalist.In a career that spanned four decades of concerts, recordings, motion pictures, television and endorsements, Liberace became world-renowned...

 for a son."

Within the context of the show, Stuart is quick to point out that he is not a trained therapist. However, he does his misguided best to help his on-air guests to work out what he wrongly perceives to be their problems. His guests are very often celebrities, however Smalley is seemingly oblivious to his guests' fame as he never uses their full names so as to "protect (their) anonymity." Smalley often projects his own problems onto his guests; thus he will attempt to solve an issue that is not really there.

Other guests that would appear were his family members, such as Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Culkin
Macaulay Carson Culkin is an American actor. He became widely known for his portrayal of Kevin McCallister in Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. He is also known for his roles in Richie Rich, Uncle Buck, My Girl, The Pagemaster, and Party Monster...

 playing his nephew or Julia Sweeney
Julia Sweeney
Julia Anne Sweeney is an American actress, comedian and author best known as a cast member on Saturday Night Live and for her autobiographical solo shows.-Personal life:...

 playing his sister, who suffers from battered wife syndrome. One Canadian relative named Leon Smalley and played by Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland
Kiefer Sutherland is an English-born Canadian actor, producer and director, best known for his portrayal of Jack Bauer on the Fox thriller drama series 24 for which he has won an Emmy Award , a Golden Globe award , two Screen Actors Guild Awards and two Satellite...

 also had a show called "Today's Mediation", which became a big hit in Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

. Although he is clearly a copycat of Stuart, Leon does seem more self-confident on his show, which could be a reason for his greater success.

The character was popular enough to spawn a novel, I'm Good Enough, I'm Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like Me!: Daily Affirmations With Stuart Smalley. The book keeps in line with the concept of the character, and is presented (tongue-in-cheek
Tongue-in-cheek is a phrase used as a figure of speech to imply that a statement or other production is humorously intended and it should not be taken at face value. The facial expression typically indicates that one is joking or making a mental effort. In the past, it may also have indicated...

) as a legitimate day-to-day affirmation book. Each page is dated and the reader is "supposed" to follow through as if they were actually seeking help. Naturally, however, things go wrong in the writing process, and thus the affirmations branch off into Stuart's own commentary about what a hard time he is having writing it, etc. He also discusses his past relationship with ex-significant-other Dale, "the Rageaholic".

An audiobook was also released, You're Good Enough, You're Smart Enough, and Doggone It, People Like You. The content of this audio book was completely different from the printed one, but followed through on the same gag. The tapes played guided visualizations meant to help the listener relax and focus; however, Stuart makes a vow at the beginning not to make any edits or corrections in the recording process because "I'm a perfectionist and if I start making changes, I'll never stop." As such it is full of humorous errors, including one gag in which Stuart tells his listeners who are driving to work to "close their eyes and envision..." something. (As such, there is a warning label on the box that says, "Do not listen while driving," a joke that doesn't make sense until one has actually listened to the tape.)

As the character's popularity increased, a film was released called Stuart Saves His Family
Stuart Saves His Family
Stuart Saves His Family is a 1995 comedy film directed by Harold Ramis, and based on a series of Saturday Night Live sketches from the early-to-mid 1990s. The movie tracks the adventures of would-be self-help guru Stuart Smalley, a creation of comedian Al Franken, as he attempts to save both his...

. It chronicled the life Stuart leads and his relationship with a very dysfunctional family
Dysfunctional family
A dysfunctional family is a family in which conflict, misbehavior, and often abuse on the part of individual members occur continually and regularly, leading other members to accommodate such actions. Children sometimes grow up in such families with the understanding that such an arrangement is...

. His alcoholic father and enabling mother, overweight sister and equally alcoholic brother call upon him when an aunt dies. He is asked to oversee the sale of her home, bringing much-needed money to all of the family. At the same time, his public access self-help show is canceled. Naturally, things go amok, and he must learn to deal with himself and his own life before he can attempt to help others. While many critics praised the film, including Gene Siskel
Gene Siskel
Eugene Kal "Gene" Siskel was an American film critic and journalist for the Chicago Tribune. Along with colleague Roger Ebert, he hosted the popular review show Siskel & Ebert At the Movies from 1975 until his death....

 (who awarded the film 3.5 stars out of four, in his print review) and Roger Ebert
Roger Ebert
Roger Joseph Ebert is an American film critic and screenwriter. He is the first film critic to win a Pulitzer Prize for Criticism.Ebert is known for his film review column and for the television programs Sneak Previews, At the Movies with Gene Siskel and Roger Ebert, and Siskel and Ebert and The...

, the film was financially unsuccessful.

According to a March 1995 article in New York Magazine, Franken regularly lobbied to get the Smalley character on the air more in his last season on Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live
Saturday Night Live is a live American late-night television sketch comedy and variety show developed by Lorne Michaels and Dick Ebersol. The show premiered on NBC on October 11, 1975, under the original title of NBC's Saturday Night.The show's sketches often parody contemporary American culture...


The character effectively disappeared after the box-office failure of the film and Franken's exit from Saturday Night Live, save one appearance where Smalley, bitter over the failure of the movie, refused to finish his affirmation, excoriated his viewers for not watching, and openly wept. At one point in that skit, Smalley (in reference to the film, its glowing reviews, and the film that beat it) commented: "But you didn't want 'funny' and 'poignant'. You wanted 'Dumb....and Dumber....and Dumber....and Dumber'!" In 2002, Franken reprised the Smalley character again when Al Gore
Al Gore
Albert Arnold "Al" Gore, Jr. served as the 45th Vice President of the United States , under President Bill Clinton. He was the Democratic Party's nominee for President in the 2000 U.S. presidential election....

 hosted, in which he mentioned that his father was still an alcoholic.

The character also showed up from time to time on The Al Franken Show
The Al Franken Show
The Al Franken Show was the flagship talk show of the former talk radio network, Air America Radio. Hosted by Al Franken, it featured commentary and interviews arguing for left-wing positions on the issues of the day, and comically poking fun at the George W. Bush Administration. The show began as...

. Later, after Franken made a bid
United States Senate election in Minnesota, 2008
The 2008 United States Senate election in Minnesota took place on November 4, 2008. After a legal battle lasting over eight months, Al Franken from the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party defeated Republican incumbent Norm Coleman in one of the closest elections in the history of the Senate...

 for a United States Senate
United States Senate
The United States Senate is the upper house of the bicameral legislature of the United States, and together with the United States House of Representatives comprises the United States Congress. The composition and powers of the Senate are established in Article One of the U.S. Constitution. Each...

 seat that ended in success but also in controversy - he would not be officially declared the winner, and therefore under Minnesota law could not be seated, until a full eight months after the election itself - he would be dubbed "Senator Stuart Smalley" by critics and fans alike.


The character is known for a number of catchphrases, many of which are chosen not just for comic effect, but to play on a perceived tendency of the self-help movement to talk and think in psychobabble. Some, such as the phrase "stinkin' thinkin'", are taken from common 12-step slogans.
  • "I'm good enough, I'm smart enough, and doggone it, people like me."
  • "That's just stinkin' thinkin!"
  • "You're should-ing all over yourself."
  • "Denial
    The Nile is a major north-flowing river in North Africa, generally regarded as the longest river in the world. It is long. It runs through the ten countries of Sudan, South Sudan, Burundi, Rwanda, Democratic Republic of the Congo, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Uganda and Egypt.The Nile has two major...

     ain't just a river in Egypt
    Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

  • "I am a worthy human being."
  • "...and that's...okay."
  • "Trace it, face it, and erase it."
  • "I don't know what I'm doing. They're gonna cancel the show. I'm gonna die homeless and penniless and twenty pounds overweight."
  • "I'm in a shame spiral."
  • "You're only as sick as your secrets."
  • "Compare and despair."
  • "I am a human being, not a human doing."
  • "Pee-wee Herman
    Pee-wee Herman
    Pee-wee Herman is a comic fictional character created and portrayed by American comedian Paul Reubens. He is best known for his two television series and film series during the 1980s. The childlike Pee-wee Herman character developed as a stage act that quickly led to an HBO special in 1981...

    : There but for the grace of God go I."
  • "I'm a skeleton because it's scary and because it reminds me that I am a human being. And that's okay. That's what I am. And besides, I think it makes me look thinner (a Halloween thought)."
  • "I learned what love is from my parents. Which is that you find that one-special person who was placed on the planet just for you, and then you put them through forty years of living hell."
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