I had a fairly busy Fourth of July weekend. On Friday, my wife was fortunate to score tickets to A Prairie Home Companion at the Hollywood Bowl. This was the final show with host Garrison Keillor. After 42 years the broadcaster from Minnesota is retiring.
We took my 14-month-old daughter with us and she did great for almost 2 hours. She loved the musical numbers, bobbing her head and clapping while she watched the video screens. Around 9:45pm when Garrison did his Lake Wobegone monologue, she became a little restless and my wife took her the exit.
It was interesting seeing a show that I had listened to most of my life. I had a few revelations there and more afterwards. One is that while I listened to the show since I was in middle school, it has almost always been in a moving automobile. I first heard Garrison Keillor with my dad in his old Ford van going somewhere or most likely coming home on a Saturday evening, often after fishing, hunting or Boy Scout camping. My parents are devout Church of Christ Christians who never miss a Sunday morning service. (The only exception was my Dad’s monthly National Guard service and he would worship later that night.) So while I might camp out on a Friday night, I’d leave on Saturday evening so I could be clean for church in the morning. While my grandparents had a cabin on a lake, we’d leave on Saturday after a full day of fishing, cleaning the property, etc. I considered the weekend to only be a Saturday.
Later when I was driving, I would catch Prairie Home Companion on the car radio. While it might have happened on the home radio, would have happen more by accident. Regardless of how I caught the broadcast it was always a happy surprise since I don’t believe I’ve ever scheduled the show in a calendar anywhere or had it memorized. (I scheduled the program This American Life in my calendar a long time ago.)
Another thing I realized is that I never listened to an entire broadcast of Prairie Home Companion. This could do with the driving, but also I often switched the channel for a few minutes during a sentimental song or two I wasn’t in the mood for and would comeback later hoping to catch witty banter or a radio play like Guy Noir or an absurd fake commercial. It’s like I’ve heard 30 – 60% of a few hundred shows, but until last Friday it was the first straight 2 hours I encountered and it was the last show.
I was excited to see how the sound effects guy operated. I wasn’t sure how many there were, but only one and he was impressive. It was also interesting that Garrison read his lines from papers with most of the sketch comedy program, but on a tale about a poet becoming a mischievous limerick writer and his Lake Wobegon update, he used no paper. Like he had either rehearsed his monologue very well or more probably (and impressively) he improvised those segments. And if he did that there, I suppose he has probably been doing that for a while. Which, if you listen to all the details he adds is quite impressive.
There has been something refreshingly different about Garrison’s twisted view of the world. He created small town personalities with strong wills covered with artificial politeness and often narrated a first person account of a downtrodden protagonist suffering multiple humiliations until he finally earned a tiny win (or a valuable life lesson) in the end. He brought intelligent, insightful, and often absurd humor that did not rely on taglines, meanness, or exhausting self-centeredness that seems to be standard American comedy. It was something that I recognized young and I’ve always treasured it, expecting it to be there indefinitely. (42 years is a long run.) I’m grateful I got to see the final performance of somebody who made a strong impression on me.
You can watch or listen to the show in segment here. http://prairiehome.org/shows/july-2-2016/
Anything you’ve seen that was memorable?
Travis Richardson has been a finalist for the Macavity, Anthony, and Derringer short story awards. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in crime fiction publications such as Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Jewish Noir, and All Due Respect. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime Los Angeles newsletter Ransom Notes, reviews Anton Chekhov short stories at http://www.chekhovshorts.com, and sometimes shoots a short movie. His novella, KEEPING THE RECORD, concerns a disgraced baseball player who will do anything to keep his tainted home run record. www.tsrichardson.com