Thirty-five years. If you ask anyone how a radio show could successfully knock heads for just the past decade with online interwebbing, the likely answer would be, “It can’t.” Yet a small little radio show…a show founded here in Saint Paul, Minn., will celebrate its 35th year of production this summer.
ST. PAUL, Minn. – For the 35th anniversary of his “A Prairie Home Companion,” humorist Garrison Keillor will be in “Lake Wobegon” when he reads the news from Lake Wobegon.
But don’t assume Keillor is all misty about the milestone.
“I’m not sentimental anymore. I used to be, when I was younger,” Keillor told The Associated Press in an interview Wednesday at his Prairie Home Productions office, an old radio station in St. Paul.
“The thing about sentimentality is that sentimentality gets in the way of your memory. And it’s a sort of a fog. It obscures your clear memory. I’m much more interested in trying to remember clearly what went on, who I was, what we did, back in 1974 (when the show began) than I am in warm feelings about it.”
You can read this summary of Keillor’s 35 years on the radio just by Googling the AP story. I found it on the Minneapolis Star Tribune’s web site. Just like a hometown paper to run an AP-written story about a local radio personality whose show is making history.
But back to “A Prairie Home…” I’ve only been once. Last October, as a birthday surprise, I purchased tickets and invited friends to join us in the balcony of The Fitzgerald Theater in Saint Paul. It was a warm-up show, the kind Keillor uses to determine the right comedic timing for certain skits and to ascertain just how short or long the program needs to be the following night when they broadcast it live.
For nearly three hours I found myself in admiration, laughing at the dumbest and oldest of jokes. It’s what makes Keillor’s show so popular. There’s a penchant among people to want to walk in to a show and forget their troubles at the door. They want to sit down and be entertained. They want to laugh at the slapstick and marvel at good writing, hilarious sound effects and songs performed by artists they may have never heard of before. In my case, I witnessed legend singer/guitarist Nick Lowe perform several tunes he had written for Johnny Cash. Again…awed.
So for all of Keillor’s pomposity and ostentatiousness that he’s provided Saint Paul, Minneapolis and the rest of his listening audience through the years, I say, “Congrats.” You’ve entertained millions and in a matter of two or three hours – you help those of us who take time to leave our troubles at the door smile, recall our own simpler times and yes, forget whatever burdens we carried in with us.
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