The Top 5 Actors Who Went on to Wield Great Political Power

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Dozens of actors and actresses have played politicians in the movies and on TV. Fewer have gone on to actually run for – and win – political office. For the most part, that is a good thing. Great acting does not often lend itself to being great at something else the way, say, experience in business or military matters might. We’re glad to see Sean Penn portray Harvey Milk, but an actual President Penn? Not so great. We’re thrilled to see Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jesse Ventura fight off that evil predator, but … oh, right.

5 Jerry Springer

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Leave it to Jerry Springer to buck the trend: Most celebrity/politicians leverage the former into the latter. Springer left a life in politics, including serving as mayor of Cincinnati, to create his television empire. And a sprawling empire it is, if you consider pathetic, culturally vapid televised refuse to be imperial.

4 Al Franken

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The fact that AL Franken can go from writing bits on “Saturday Night Live” to serving as a United States senator should seem like a bad bit from SNL. But Mr. Franken is truly a brilliant man, his smarts as demonstrable through his clever humor as through his savvy, informed approach to politics. Franken’s entry into the political arena is genuine, with years of social activism and support for the military blossoming into a full-time commitment to civic duty. We may be gushing here … sorry.

3 Governor Schwarzenegger

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Governor Schwarzenegger is one of the most famous, iconic people alive today, which is impressive for a man who can still barely pronounce the name of the state he governed for two terms. Arnold has been the star of dozens of movies, including the blockbuster, The Termintor, and has lifted millions of pounds of “iron” in his day, and is generally an amazing, perplexing, sometimes-impressive, sometimes-disgraceful man. He has so much with his mind and his muscles in his lifetime that we’re even willing to forgive “End of Days.”

2 Ronald Reagan

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Perhaps Ronald Reagan should have topped the list, but he had less than Jesse Ventura to overcome, image-burnishing wise. Our 40th president rose to fame thanks to his acting career, and has created an aura that lingers long after his death in 2004, defining a whole generation of conservative politics. Reagan started “at the bottom” as an announcer for miniature local radio stations, slowly rising to ever more prominent radio gigs, then to acting, then to fame, and the rest is history. His Ezra Pound-type life story helped to cement his status as a beloved American.

1 Jesse Ventura

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We actually have to hand it to Jesse “The Body” Ventura as our list-topper. Any man who boasts a resume with such entries as “professional wrestler,” “action movie star,” and “BUD/S Navy diver” (forerunners to the SEALs) and manages to get elected the governor of a state is just impressive, even if he is a decidedly bizarre human being. He was also a high ranking “officer” in a motorcycle gang, and had a beautiful moustache for many years. And now he has a bizarre conspiracy theory TV show – the man is a dynamo!

Steven John is a published novelist and competitive pole vault champion. (The latter is not true.) His writing runs the gamut from speculative fiction to essays fueled by a mix of mirth and derision. He has never been to Lisbon but, statistically speaking, is probably taller than you.

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