Dan Janison Melville. N.Y. Tuesday January 26, 2010. Daniel Janison,

Dan Janison has been a columnist at Newsday since 2007.

The line between comedy and politics grows hazier.

In Italy, a populist movement led by longtime standup comedian Beppe Grillo suddenly emerged last month as a major power broker in the nation's parliament, amusing some and alarming others.

In Minnesota, longtime comic satirist Al Franken, formerly of "Saturday Night Live," now serves his fifth year as a Democratic U.S. senator. In 2008 he unseated Republican Norman Coleman -- who, bear in mind, lost an earlier bid for governor to former pro wrestler Jesse Ventura.

In New York City, libertarian agitator-comic Randy Credico makes the rounds again, this time in the role of mayoral candidate. Dressed up as the Greek philosopher "Diogenes the Cynic," he toured Albany in 2009 "in search of an honest man."

None of this is new. In 1994, radio celebrity Howard Stern "ran" for governor, and in 1968, television humorist Pat Paulsen "ran" for president, just as Stephen Colbert did in 2012.

And even today, political pros mostly contract out the comic work. In that vein, term-limited Mayor Michael Bloomberg late Saturday performed his final response skit to the annual "Inner Circle" press revue in Manhattan -- aided, as usual, by top-notch ringers from Broadway.

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OUT-OF-TOWN ASSIST: Last week, State Senate Republican leader Dean Skelos of Rockville Centre endorsed billionaire businessman John Catsimatidis for New York City mayor. For whatever it may matter to voters in the five boroughs, Skelos said: "He'll stand up for our forgotten middle class and fight for safe streets and schools that educate."

Catsimatidis has financially backed the state GOP and a bipartisan mix of candidates. In the autumn of 2008, for example, he contributed $50,000 to Skelos' Republican Senate campaign committee.

REMEMBRANCE OF SPATS PAST: For longtime City Hall denizens, there's a bit of a familiar echo to the clash between Bloomberg and Council Speaker Christine Quinn over an election-year bill to create an inspector general for the NYPD. Around this time 12 years ago, another Democratic mayoral candidate, under fire from primary rivals over alleged coziness with the departing Republican mayor, created a similar stir. The candidate, then-Comptroller Alan Hevesi, aired a commercial vowing to "increase accountability" and "stop profiling" by police. Then-mayor Rudy Giuliani denounced the ad as divisive and unfair.