Al Franken, left, with Tom Davis in the 1970s
In 2004, contestants on “Jeopardy!” were stumped by the clue “He was the comedy partner of Al Franken.”
Tom Davis, that comedy partner, sighed as he watched. He was so inured to playing second fiddle to Mr. Franken, now a Democratic senator from Minnesota, that he called himself Sonny to Mr. Franken’s Cher.
But the fact is that Mr. Davis helped shape Mr. Franken’s comedy, and vice versa, from the time they entertained students with rebellious, razor-edged humor at high school assemblies in Minnesota.
In 1975, Mr. Davis, brilliant at improvisational comedy, and Mr. Franken, a whiz at plotting funny sequences, became two of the first writers on a new show called “Saturday Night Live,” which has lasted 37 years. (The two should actually be called one of the show’s first writers: they accepted a single salary of $350 a week. Each, singly, was called “the guys.”)
Mr. Davis never lost the quirky, original tone that helped shape the show, and in his last months he referred to deathas “deanimation.” He deanimated on Thursday at his home in Hudson, N.Y., at age 59. The cause was throat and neck cancer, his wife, Mimi Raleigh, said…