National Geographic: There’s No Place Like Home

“When a man lives in one place for most of his life, he doesn’t need GPS. He is guided by memories of boyhood bike rides, the ever present Mississippi, and the undeniable power of rhubarb.”

Read the article at National Geographic’s website →

A Return to Town Hall this week (Click Image)
GK and Christine
The Times They are a'changin' — Thanksgiving is over and Christmas is coming, that means we are heading to Town Hall. Enjoy Garrison and Christine's updated rendition. Click Here for our schedule!


 

Find the NEW weekly Garrison Keillor's Podcast on:

Substack

iHeart

Apple

Spotify


 

sign up for Garrison's newsletter here
CHEERFULNESS by Garrison Keillor!

Garrison Keillor's newest book, CHEERFULNESS, now available.

Drawing on personal anecdotes from his young adulthood into his eighties, Keillor sheds light on the immense good that can come from a deliberate work ethic and a buoyant demeanor. “Adopting cheerfulness as a strategy does not mean closing your eyes to evil,” he tells us; “it means resisting our drift toward compulsive dread and despond.” Funny, poignant, thought-provoking, and whimsical, this is a book that will inspire you to choose cheerfulness in your daily life.

1. CHEERFULNESS

It’s a great American virtue, the essence of who we are when we’re cooking with gas: enthusiasm, high spirits, rise and shine, qwitcher bellyaching, wake up and die right, pick up your feet, step up to the plate and swing for the fences. Smile, dammit. Dance like you mean it and give it some pizzazz, clap on the backbeat. Do your best and forget the rest, da doo ron ron ron da doo ron ron. Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition, hang by your thumbs and write when you get work, whoopitiyiyo git along little cowboys—and I am an American, I don’t eat my cheeseburger in a croissant, don’t look for a church that serves a French wine and a sourdough wafer for Communion, don’t use words like dodgy, bonkers, knackered, or chuffed. When my team scores, I don’t shout, Très bien!! I don’t indulge in dread and dismay. Yes, I can make a list of evils and perils and injustices in the world, but I believe in a positive attitude and I know that one can do only so much and one should do that much and do it cheerfully. Dread is communicable: healthy rats fed fecal matter from depressed humans demonstrated depressive behavior, including anhedonia and anxiety—crap is bad for the brain. Nothing good comes from this. Despair is surrender. Put your shoulder to the wheel. And wash your hands.

We live in an Age of Gloom, or so I read, and some people blame electronics, but I love my cellphone and laptop, and others blame the decline of Protestantism, but I grew up fundamentalist so I don’t, and others blame bad food. Too much grease and when there’s a potluck supper, busy people tend to stop at Walmart or a SuperAmerica station and pick up a potato salad that was manufactured a month ago and shipped in tanker trucks and it’s depressing compared to Grandma’s, which she devoted an hour to making fresh from chopped celery, chives, green onions, homemade mayonnaise, mustard, dill, and paprika. You ate it and knew that Grandma cared about you. The great potato salad creators are passing from the scene, replaced by numbskulls so busy online they’re willing to bring garbage to the communal table.

I take no position on that, since I like a Big Mac as well as anybody and I’ve bought food in plastic containers from refrigerated units at gas stations and never looked at the expiration date. And I am a cheerful man...

Read the first Chapter>>>

Purchase Cheerfulness Softcover >>>

 Listen to the audiobook via Audible (to come)

Read it on Kindle >>>


 

Singing to the Lord to save Herschel

The Communion hymn in church last Sunday was “All People That on Earth Do Dwell,” which I cherish for the lines “Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice: serve him with mirth,” which is the only time comedy is mentioned in our hymnal, I do believe. There’s joy and rejoicing and gladness, but the thought of serving our Creator with jokes is rather rare and, I think, beautiful. I’m not sure I know exactly what joy is but I do know the one about the engineer who sees another engineer rolling a little pellet between his fingers and saying, “I’m trying to figure out if this is more rubbery or more like plastic,” and the first engineer takes the pellet from him and says, “There is plasticity to it but there’s a viscosity, a sort of liquidity too” and he puts it in his mouth and says, “And there’s a salinity to it as well. Where did you get it?” The other engineer says, “Out of my nose.”

A joke is a friendly transaction between two persons and even if it falls flat, it conveys a generous spirit. I have four friends who still tell me jokes, three men, one woman, all of them old enough to remember the Helen Keller jokes (How did Helen Keller burn her fingers? She tried to read the waffle iron.) and the lightbulb jokes (How many philosophers does it take to change a lightbulb? Define “light.”) or the “What’s the difference” jokes (What’s the difference between roast beef and pea soup? Anyone can roast beef.) and the “What did the blank say to the blank” (What did the maxi-pad say to the fart? You are the wind beneath my wings.) and double-amputee jokes (“What do you call a man with no arms or legs hanging on your wall?” Art.) and old guy jokes (Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal. Old actuaries never die, they just get broken down by age and sex.) and the Ole and Lena jokes (So Ole died and Lena called up the undertaker to come get him, and he said, “I’ll be there in an hour,” and she said, “I’m having my hair done in half an hour, how about I drag him out to the curb and you can pick him up there?”). And there were Viagra jokes but they petered out.

Back when I hung out in saloon, in a booth stuffed with guys drinking whiskey, all of us in our twenties, trying to get an angle on our lives, any one of us could change the music by saying, “Twelve years in analysis and finally yesterday I got in touch with my emotions and I broke down and cried.”

“What happened?”

“My analyst looked at me and said, ‘No hablo ingles.’”

It was Minneapolis, some of us were grad students, I was a radio DJ, there were a couple of Army vets, we were a tight bunch squeezed in the booth, ambitious, reasonably serious, but there was a patter of jokes to remind us — life is good, don’t take your troubles too seriously — and I miss that tightness. It was a booth for six and we were eight or nine because we really wanted to be there.

So what happened to joke-telling?

For one thing, some of the best jokes are about death. The old Republican is dying and tells his wife, “I’m going to switch parties because I’d rather it happen to a Democrat than to one of us.” These are maybe less funny when you get to be my age. For another thing, a politician came along in 2015 who isn’t funny. This was a first. There were dozens of George Bush jokes and Bill Clinton jokes but with this guy, late-night comics deliver very clever insults but nobody laughs.

I’m not giving up. I was on the phone with a pal who’s in chemo and we spent 58 minutes telling jokes back and forth, including the one about the priest asking the widow, “Did your husband have any last request?” and she said, “Yes, he asked me to put down the gun.” The pal laughed so hard she almost split a seam. Later she called me back to tell me one more. Herschel was swept out to sea by a tidal wave and Mama cried out, “God, you can’t do that to my boy! Bring him back!” and another wave washes Herschel back and Mama cries, “Thank you, God” and then looks at Herschel and looks up at the sky — “He was wearing a hat!” I’ve heard that joke many times and I’m starting to get it. A guy needs a hat.

Epictetus on Fifth Avenue, a week ago

The world’s longest parking lot is Fifth Avenue in New York at midday and a week ago I found myself stuck in it, in a cab driven by a devout Sikh with headscarf and big beard, whose religion evidently taught him to Yield, so we moved at a glacial rate from 86th to 43rd Street where I had an important lunch appointment. Had I taken the B train I would’ve been there in a few minutes but that mistake had been made and now I watched pedestrians on the sidewalk passing us.

So what can you do? No need to get fussed up. You embrace stoicism. Epictetus said the way to happiness is to not worry about things beyond your power to control, which includes this taxi ride, totalitarianism, the cost of tickets to “Tannhäuser,” and other things that begin with T. So the two VIPs I am meeting for lunch may have to cool their jets for a while. I don’t have their cellphone numbers — they’re very I — so they’ll just have to amuse themselves at the restaurant. This is New York, a city teeming with amusement, you can stand on any corner and it will come walking along.

I relaxed in the backseat as we inched through the 70s and I remembered the day — I think it was in 1971 — when I flew to New York from Minnesota and got a room at a fleabag hotel, the Seymour, on 44th, which I chose, thinking of Seymour Glass in J.D. Salinger’s “Franny and Zooey,” a book I loved lavishly in college, and the next day I walked around the block to 25 West 43rd Street and took the elevator up to the 17th floor to the office of Roger Angell, a fiction editor at The New Yorker who had bought some stories of mine, the dream of every college writer in America at the time. Back then, I was living in a rented farmhouse near Freeport, Minnesota, just one more impoverished 27-year-old, and I spent the money he sent me for the stories on a flight to New York, where, after telling me how much he liked my stuff, he took me across the street to the Algonquin Hotel for lunch. I felt like the King of the Hill. I think it was one of the most magnificent days of my life, that and the day a nurse handed me my tiny naked daughter in 1997 and my 80th birthday last year when she, my wife Jenny, and I ate breakfast on the porch of a little summer house in Connecticut.

To me, this impromptu recollection of magnificence, while sitting in a guru-driven taxi going 3 mph in Manhattan, is the very embodiment of happiness. I’m a Midwesterner and we’re brought up to recollect our transgressions and wrong turns and here I was, having stupidly chosen taxi over subway, coming late to an important appointment, and that day in 1971 came back, crossing 43rd with a great editor to lunch where he told me that a New Yorker “first reader” named Mary D. Kierstead had pulled my stories off the ”slush pile,” the stack of unsolicited fiction, and sent it upstairs to him. Had she not done that, I imagine I might be an old cabdriver myself these days, or maybe a short-order cook, or a parking lot attendant, but instead my dream of writerdom came true, thanks to an angel named Mary and Roger Angell.

“So what happened when you finally got to the lunch?” you’re wondering. I was somewhat late, they were understanding, I made my pitch, they listened, we had a nice lunch, crab cakes and soup for me, and I could sense that around the room other pitches were being made and you could tell who was who — the pitcher was leaning forward, the pitchee was leaning back. My pitch was caught and they agreed to think about it and we shook hands and parted.

It was about a book project, of course, and at the age of 81, the outcome is not so crucial as Mary Kierstead’s rescue of my stories fifty years ago. I believe in the book I pitched, I really and truly do believe the world needs this book, especially with a liar and crook headed for the White House: this makes beauty all the more important.

But the high point of the day was the cab ride in the parking lot, being late due to my own blunder, and being at peace with it, and remembering the beauty of 1971. Thank you, Ms. Kierstead, wherever you may be.

My personal journey toward self-minimization

I went to see “La Bohème” the other day, such a great opera, it doesn’t matter that the singers aren’t, and let me just say this — at the beginning of the first and last acts, set in the garret, you’ve got Rodolfo and Marcello and the guys and there’s no story, no purpose, nothing but vague bohemianism until Mimi shows up and then the lights come on, and it’s like that in life too. My opinion, okay? Message plays that preach justice and equality are okay for college sophomores but the real story is about two opposites who fall in love and she’s charming and he’s jealous and they come crosswise and hurt each other deeply but in the end they’re tied to each other. Lovers are real, families are real. Demonstrators, not so much.

These days we’re in the era of the Personal Position Statement as we saw in the recent National Book Awards ceremony in New York. There is no NBA for humor because the event is all about Taking Ourselves Very Seriously As Compensation For Slights We Have Suffered From The Uncomprehending World. The winner of the poetry prize, a man from Guam, accepted it on behalf of the poets of the Pacific islands. The translation award was accepted on behalf of gay men, the nonfiction award on behalf of indigenous peoples. If I’d been given the NBA for Brief Amusing Essays, I would’ve needed to accept it on behalf of recovering fundamentalists or overlooked Midwesterners or the marginalized octogenarian and nothing would be said about literary quality.

It was not always thus. I remember loving Theodore Roethke’s work, not as vindication of the humanity of bipolar persons, and James Wright’s, not as honoring the personhood of Ohioans, but because their poems were memorable, stuck with me, were beautiful to my ear, and still are, fifty years later.

One prizewinner said: “Being here tonight as a gay man, receiving this award for a novel about another gay man’s journey to self-acceptance, I wanted to say to everyone who ever felt wrong about themselves that your heart and your desire are true, and you are just as deserving as anybody else of having a fulfilling life.” There is something clunky about “journey to self-acceptance” — I can’t imagine anyone, gay or straight or counterclockwise, saying it in conversation with someone whose company they enjoy, and the idea that feeling wrong about yourself entitles you to a fulfilling life — it leaves out factors such as talent, hard work, good luck, self-discipline. I truly believe that the Deranged Golfer in one tiny corner of his soul feels wrong about himself — how could he not? — but that doesn’t qualify him for the Oval Office.

The NBA ceremony took place in New York, which is the Sarcasm Capital of America: nobody would dare talk aloud about their journey to self-acceptance on the subway or in Zabar’s Deli — you’d get eye-rolling and mocking comments on all sides. Look at the recent resignation of Anne Boyer as poetry editor of the New York Times Magazine in protest of the newspaper’s “war-mongering lies” and Israel’s “US-backed war against the people of Gaza” as a war for the benefit of “oil interests and weapon manufacturers.”

This being New York, the real fun was in the Comments section. A few praised her courage and then someone ripped her for “atrocious writing for a college freshman, let alone a Times writer,” and R.T. Castleberry wrote: “That should do it. No doubt there will be peace talks now that the poetry editor of the NY Times Magazine has put her foot down.” Someone wrote, “What does her job have to do with the international tragedy? I don’t know how I feel about people making this conflict all about them.” A classic New York putdown: GET OVER YOURSELF! And then another putdown: “I didn’t know the New York Times Magazine had a poetry section.”

Anne Boyer wrote a book, The Undying: Pain, Vulnerability, Mortality, Medicine, Art, Time, Dreams, Data, Exhaustion, Cancer, and Care, and I must admit that a book with that title is nothing I’d give a friend who’s going through treatment for cancer. It won a Pulitzer, maybe because the judges couldn’t bear to add Prize Denial to the Pain and Vulnerability.

Sitting at the opera, hearing the dying soprano sing to the tenor, “You are my love, you are my life,” it struck me as genuine, so much better than, “I’m dying, O the pain, vulnerability, mortality, lack of penicillin, and where is a doctor when you need one?” and the tenor, though he’d been a jerk, wept in her arms, and so should we all.

A Prairie Home Companion An Evening of Story and Song Humor Love & Comedy Tour Old Friends Poetry Prairie Home Christmas Show Solo Songs Stories The Gratitude Tour
Schedule

December 9, 2023

Saturday

8:00 p.m.

Town Hall, New York City

Town Hall, New York City

A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Town Hall in New York City with Elle Dehn, Heather Masse, Vince Giordano and the Nighthawks, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.

January 11, 2024

Thursday

7:30 p.m.

Ryman Auditorium, Nashville, TN

Nashville, TN

A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Nashville with Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sam Bush, Stuart Duncan, Sue Scott, Fred Newman and Tim Russell.

January 13, 2024

Saturday

7:30 p.m.

McCain Auditorium, Manhattan, KS

Manhattan, KS

A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the McCain Auditorium in Manhattan, Kansas with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.

January 21, 2024

Sunday

7:00 p.m.

Ashwaubenon PAC, Green Bay, WI

Green Bay, WI

Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Green Bay, WI. Poetry, Limericks, Sing-Along and the News from Lake Wobegon.

buy tickets

February 10, 2024

Saturday

8:00 p.m.

Kravis Center, West Palm Beach, FL

West Palm Beach, FL

Garrison Keillor brings his A Prairie Home Companion 50th Anniversary tour to West Palm Beach with our favorite regulars, Aoife O’Donovan, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.

February 23, 2024

Friday

8:00 p.m.

The Grand 1894 Opera House, Galveston, TX

Galveston, TX

A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.

February 25, 2024

Sunday

7:30 p.m.

ACL Live at The Moody Theater, Austin, TX

Austin, TX

A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to the Grand 1894 Opera House in Galveston, TX with our favorite regulars, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.

March 24, 2024

Sunday

7:30 p.m.

Wilson Center Cape Fear Community College, Wilmington, NCX

Wilmington, NC

A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College in Wilmington, NC with our favorite regulars, Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.

March 26, 2024

Tuesday

7:30 p.m.

Peace Concert Hall, SC

Greenville, SC

A Prairie Home Companion’s 50th Anniversary Tour comes to Greenville, SC with our favorite regulars, Heather Masse, Christine DiGiallonardo, Rich Dworsky, Sue Scott, Tim Russell and Fred Newman. Additional guests to be announced.

March 28, 2024

Thursday

8:00 p.m.

Carolina Theatre, Greensboro, NC

Greensboro, NC

Garrison Keillor brings his solo show to Greensboro, NC. Poetry, Limericks, Sing-Along and the News from Lake Wobegon

buy tickets
Radio

To sign up for the daily Writer’s Almanac e-newsletter, which includes unedited versions of previously aired TWA episodes, please click here.

To make a donation to support this archival project, please click here. You can also support us by buying a paid Substack subscription or mailing a check to Prairie Home Productions  PO Box 2090  Minneapolis, MN 55402

The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, December 4, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, December 4, 2023

It’s the birthday of poet Rainer Maria Rilke, born in Prague (1875). He spent most of his life traveling, never settling anywhere for more than a few months. And since he only wrote in spurts, he supported himself by getting rich noblewomen to fall in love with him and support his work. He apparently wasn’t the best-looking guy in the world, but women found irresistible because he was so romantic and poetic.

Read More
A Prairie Home Companion:  December 9, 2006

A Prairie Home Companion: December 9, 2006

A New York Prairie Home 2005 classic with Irish traditional vocalist Karan Casey, fiddler Stuart Duncan, and a titan of the jazz tuba Howard Johnson and Gravity.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, December 3, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Sunday, December 3, 2023

It’s the birthday of writer Joseph Conrad, born Jozef Teodor Konrad Naleca Korzeniowski, in Berdyczew, Poland (1857). He joined the French marine service when he was sixteen, and spent the next four years shipping out of Marseilles. Next he went to England, shipping out as an ordinary seaman and working his way up to master in the British Merchant Service. When the novelist John Galsworthy was one of his passengers, he showed him a manuscript he had been working on.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, December 2, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Saturday, December 2, 2023

It’s the birthday of soprano Maria Callas, born Maria Anna Sophia Cecilia Kalogeropoulos, in Brooklyn, NY (1923). Her father shortened the family name soon after Maria was born. At 11 she sang “La Paloma” on a radio contest. Her parents separated when she was 13, and her mother took her back to Greece to live, where she attended the Athens National Conservatory. Her first important role was that of Tosca, one of the many with which she would be identified. She made her debut at the Metropolitan Opera in 1956, in the role of Norma. She’s the subject of two plays Terence McNally: The Lisbon Traviata and Master Class.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Friday, December 1, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Friday, December 1, 2023

On this day in 1955, Rosa Parks was arrested for refusing to give up her bus seat to a white man. She was an assistant tailor at a Montgomery, Alabama department store, and a longtime civil rights activist. She often walked home from work in order to avoid the segregated buses, but on this day she was too tired. A boycott ensued that went on for 381 days: it ended segregation on Montgomery’s buses, and heralded the start of the modern civil rights movement.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, November 30, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Thursday, November 30, 2023

It’s the birthday of Mark Twain, born Samuel Langhorne Clemens, in Florida, Missouri (1835). He left school at 12 to work as a printer, then as a riverboat pilot. During the Civil War, he went to Nevada where he tried gold mining and then edited a newspaper. When he was 29 he went to San Francisco as a reporter, and achieved his first success with The Celebrated Jumping Frog of Calaveras County (1865). He took a trip to Europe and the Holy Land, and described his experiences in The Innocents Abroad (1869). When he returned to America, he settled in the East, married Olivia Langdon, and had four children. They built a distinctive house in Hartford, Connecticut, and he won wide popularity with The Adventures of Tom Sawyer (1876), and later, The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (1884).

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, November 29, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Wednesday, November 29, 2023

It’s the birthday of novelist and Christian apologist C.S. Lewis, born Clive Staples Lewis in Belfast, Ireland (1898). He grew up in a big house out in the country. He said: “I am the product of long corridors, empty sunlit rooms, upstairs indoor silences, attics explored in solitude, distant noises of gurgling cisterns and pipes, and the noise of wind under the tiles. Also, of endless books.”

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, November 28, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Tuesday, November 28, 2023

It’s the birthday of poet and artist William Blake, born in London (1757). He was four years old when he had a vision that God was at his window. A few years later, he went for a walk and saw a tree filled with angels, their wings shining. He had other visions, too: he saw the prophet Ezekiel sitting under a tree, and angels walking with farmers making hay.

Read More
The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, November 27, 2023

The Writer’s Almanac for Monday, November 27, 2023

It was on this day in 1786 that Scottish poet Robert Burns borrowed a pony and made his way from his home in Ayrshire to the city of Edinburgh. The fall of 1786 had been an eventful one for Burns. He wasn’t making any money farming, and after he got his girlfriend Jean Armour pregnant, he decided he needed to find a way to support his new family — not to mention his illegitimate one-year-old daughter, whose mother was a servant in the Burns household and wanted money. Burns accepted a friend’s offer to work as a clerk in Jamaica, and was set to leave in September.

Read More
A Prairie Home Companion:  December 2, 2000

A Prairie Home Companion: December 2, 2000

This classic comes from a 2000 The Town Hall broadcast with special guest Ramblin’ Jack Elliott, and a visit from some of New York City’s most exciting subway musicians including Natalia Paruz (musical saw), Jorge Luzuriaga (vocals/gtr), Church of Betty, and Spank. 

Read More
Writing

Singing to the Lord to save Herschel

The Communion hymn in church last Sunday was “All People That on Earth Do Dwell,” which I cherish for the lines “Sing to the Lord with cheerful voice:
serve him with mirth,” which is the only time comedy is mentioned in our hymnal, I do believe. There’s joy and rejoicing and gladness, but the thought of serving our Creator with jokes is rather rare and, I think, beautiful. I’m not sure I know exactly what joy is but I do know the one about the engineer who sees another engineer rolling a little pellet between his fingers and saying, “I’m trying to figure out if this is more rubbery or more like plastic,” and the first engineer takes the pellet from him and says, “There is plasticity to it but there’s a viscosity, a sort of liquidity too” and he puts it in his mouth and says, “And there’s a salinity to it as well. Where did you get it?” The other engineer says, “Out of my nose.”

A joke is a friendly transaction between two persons and even if it falls flat, it conveys a generous spirit. I have four friends who still tell me jokes, three men, one woman, all of them old enough to remember the Helen Keller jokes (How did Helen Keller burn her fingers? She tried to read the waffle iron.) and the lightbulb jokes (How many philosophers does it take to change a lightbulb? Define “light.”) or the “What’s the difference” jokes (What’s the difference between roast beef and pea soup? Anyone can roast beef.) and the “What did the blank say to the blank” (What did the maxi-pad say to the fart? You are the wind beneath my wings.) and double-amputee jokes (“What do you call a man with no arms or legs hanging on your wall?” Art.) and old guy jokes (Old lawyers never die, they just lose their appeal. Old actuaries never die, they just get broken down by age and sex.) and the Ole and Lena jokes (So Ole died and Lena called up the undertaker to come get him, and he said, “I’ll be there in an hour,” and she said, “I’m having my hair done in half an hour, how about I drag him out to the curb and you can pick him up there?”). And there were Viagra jokes but they petered out.

Read More

Epictetus on Fifth Avenue, a week ago

The world’s longest parking lot is Fifth Avenue in New York at midday and a week ago I found myself stuck in it, in a cab driven by a devout Sikh with headscarf and big beard, whose religion evidently taught him to Yield, so we moved at a glacial rate from 86th to 43rd Street where I had an important lunch appointment. Had I taken the B train I would’ve been there in a few minutes but that mistake had been made and now I watched pedestrians on the sidewalk passing us.

So what can you do? No need to get fussed up. You embrace stoicism. Epictetus said the way to happiness is to not worry about things beyond your power to control, which includes this taxi ride, totalitarianism, the cost of tickets to “Tannhäuser,” and other things that begin with T. So the two VIPs I am meeting for lunch may have to cool their jets for a while. I don’t have their cellphone numbers — they’re very I — so they’ll just have to amuse themselves at the restaurant. This is New York, a city teeming with amusement, you can stand on any corner and it will come walking along.

Read More

My personal journey toward self-minimization

I went to see “La Bohème” the other day, such a great opera, it doesn’t matter that the singers aren’t, and let me just say this — at the beginning of the first and last acts, set in the garret, you’ve got Rodolfo and Marcello and the guys and there’s no story, no purpose, nothing but vague bohemianism until Mimi shows up and then the lights come on, and it’s like that in life too. My opinion, okay? Message plays that preach justice and equality are okay for college sophomores but the real story is about two opposites who fall in love and she’s charming and he’s jealous and they come crosswise and hurt each other deeply but in the end they’re tied to each other. Lovers are real, families are real. Demonstrators, not so much.

These days we’re in the era of the Personal Position Statement as we saw in the recent National Book Awards ceremony in New York. There is no NBA for humor because the event is all about Taking Ourselves Very Seriously As Compensation For Slights We Have Suffered From The Uncomprehending World. The winner of the poetry prize, a man from Guam, accepted it on behalf of the poets of the Pacific islands. The translation award was accepted on behalf of gay men, the nonfiction award on behalf of indigenous peoples. If I’d been given the NBA for Brief Amusing Essays, I would’ve needed to accept it on behalf of recovering fundamentalists or overlooked Midwesterners or the marginalized octogenarian and nothing would be said about literary quality.

Read More

Thank goodness for Minnesota

Winter is here, people, and let’s face it — somebody has to live up here in the north, we can’t all sit around Mirage-a-Lounge, Florida, and play golf every day, somebody has to raise the soybeans and defend the border against the insatiable Canadians, and so here we are, putting on our puffy coats that make us look fat and stocking caps that destroy our hairstyle and heading out into the frigid blast and going to work and getting important stuff done, and not passing nuclear secrets around to our pals at the club or doubling the size of our penthouse on loan applications. I don’t know any Minnesotans who do that sort of thing.

When Hubert Humphrey was LBJ’s vice president, I’ll bet you anything he didn’t sit around Murray’s steakhouse in Minneapolis and show Canadian tycoons the formula for the H-bomb.

Read More

Finding harmony in the midst of chaos

I flew into New York last week into JFK, which would not be my choice but that’s where the plane landed. LaGuardia has been remade into a marble palace and JFK is an obstacle course to find out if you really really really want to come to New York or if you might rather go to Cleveland. The Statue of Liberty says, “Give me your huddled masses yearning to breathe free” and that’s JFK, huddled masses yearning to claim their baggage and find a taxi.

Your best strategy in dismal circumstances is militant cheerfulness. You say “Thank you” and “God bless you” to anyone who holds a door for you or lets you pass, you ask the taxi starter how he’s doing today, you address the cabbie as “My friend” and it really does brighten your day.

Read More

“Stand up for yourself,” I keep thinking to myself

I ate breakfast with a woman last week who, in the course of twenty minutes, sent four cups of coffee back to the kitchen because they didn’t meet her standards, a drip-brewed cup with milk, two lattes, and a latte with oat milk. (Her name does not begin with J.)

I’m not a newcomer to this world and I have never met a person with such exquisitely fine taste in the coffee realm. Wine, yes. Coffee, no. I say this with all due admiration. It’d be so easy to reproach her, what with wars and starvation and natural disasters and global warming and doxing and polls showing that a majority of Americans support blatant dishonesty and corruption, but I don’t go down the shaming road.

Read More

The comedian’s thoughts at the wedding

I went to a wedding in California last week, a beautiful wedding out under the eucalyptus trees, a rare pleasure for me, being at the age when friends are not vowing “till death us do part” but watching death part them, and it was fun. It being California, the men were very mellow, the women were all glamorous in bright strapless gowns and hugged each other and cried, “Oh my god, you look fabulous,” and effusiveness was the rule. The men were all socially engaged, tolerant of differences, committed to social justice. The parents stood up and gave speeches praising the bride and groom so lavishly, it made me wonder if the couple had been diagnosed with a fatal disease.

I’m from Minnesota where weddings are solemn and parents do not speak admiringly of their children. Not lavishly anyway. They worry. They wonder if the marriage will last. They wonder if the guests are having a good time. In Minnesota, it’s hard to tell.

Read More

On the phone with my people

A balmy, even summery, fall in Minnesota and then suddenly snow fell and my aging homeowner pals back home are reconsidering their options. The supply of teenage labor to shovel walks is spotty and you hear horror stories about ice buildup in the attic, water dripping from the ceiling, tons of ice inside the roof because the vapor barrier was put in wrong, and then of course there is the ever-present danger of slipping on a frosty sidewalk and twisting your back as you fall and something cracks and suddenly you are on the waiting list for Cripple Creek Care Center. A friend told me about a squirrel who’d climbed down the chimney to get warm and fell into the old coal furnace and tore around the house in a panic, scattering soot everywhere until they finally chased him out: “I got a .22 and I could’ve shot him but he was moving pretty fast and anyway the kids were watching and they were cheering for the squirrel.”

These are true Minnesotans, stalwarts, stoics, not summer soldiers, and the thought of decamping for the Florida swamps or the Arizona desert is for them something like gender transition or conversion to Zen Lutheranism, something to be postponed as long as possible.

Read More

The memory is alive with old roots

The simple pleasures of a long close marriage on a perfect October day, leaves dropping from the trees, eating an egg salad sandwich after her long morning walk, playing Scrabble. She talks about who and what she saw on her hike and I, the writer, am silent in thought, having played the word “irony,” which triggers the memory of a day long ago in Saginaw, Michigan.

I’d gone there to give a speech — don’t remember the occasion, only that afterward, a man in a shiny blue suit said to me, “It’s so hard to get good speakers to come to Saginaw.” And it wasn’t clear if this was a compliment or an insult.

Read More

We must become children so our kids can survive

An ordinary late October day and the world is dense with stately trees in variations of reds and gold and orange that Crayola never contemplated — no need to shop around for magic mushrooms or give up your life as a good citizen for something involving incense and flutes — just walk down the street ignoring the Halloween skeletons and let your heart be lifted. I’m descended from stoics, our emotional range runs from A to D, once or twice we’ve hit L, never W for wonderment but here I am in New York where something in the water encourages self-expression and I see a man on the subway platform do some little dance moves he’d maybe seen in the theater the night before. He’s not a dancer but he doesn’t let that stop him.

A short woman approaches and speaks something to me and I see she’s holding a cardboard tray of candies and a little boy clutches her pant leg and I remember reading about the Ecuadoran refugees who’ve come to the city, the women earning money just this way, and I reach into my pocket and pull out a twenty, which is a lot to pay for a small bag of M&Ms but how do you put a value on the look in the boy’s eyes. He is three or four and very keen. A train is coming into the station. This must be all strange to him but he isn’t frightened thanks to his anchor. He studies me, then the crowd emerging from the open doors, a man with a handsome dog on a leash, a guitarist playing into a little amp on the platform, and I board the train. But those dark eyes stay with me.

Read More

Email sign-up:

Sign up for the Garrison Keillor & Friends email newsletter here >>>

Sign up for the weekly A Prairie Home Companion email newsletter here >>>

Sign up for the daily The Writer’s Almanac email newsletter here >>>


Submit to The Writer’s Almanac:

We are not accepting new poetry at this time. For questions, please contact twa @ garrisonkeillor.com


ShopGarrisonKeillor.com Questions 

For questions related to items you have ordered from our store, please contact orders @ garrisonkeillor.com


Get In Touch
Send Message

Press Kit

If you are hosting an event with Garrison Keillor, please feel free to use the press photos below for marketing, as well as the short biography. Promo video for the purpose of booking is available here.

To book Garrison Keillor, please contact: Northstar Artists, P.O. Box 47393, Minneapolis, MN 55447.    P 763-999-7700

For interview inquiries, please contact:  Ellyn Solis, e2PR Strategic Communications (ellyn@e2pr.biz)
Johnny Tokarczyk, e2PR Strategic Communications (johnny@e2pr.biz)


Whether solo or accompanied by Richard Dworsky, Heather Masse, Prudence Johnson, Dan Chouinard, Dean Magraw, or others, Garrison Keillor delivers an extraordinary, crowd-pleasing performance.

Garrison Keillor’s celebrated radio broadcast A Prairie Home Companion ran for forty years. He wrote the comedy sketches and more, and he invented a “little town that time forgot and the decades could not improve.” These days, his shows are packed with humor and song, plus the audience-favorite News from Lake Wobegon. He has written dozens of books — recently, Boom Town (a Lake Wobegon novel), That Time of Year (a memoir), a book of limericks, and Serenity at 70, Gaiety at 80 (reflections on why you should keep on getting older). Garrison and his wife, Jenny Lind Nilsson, live in New York City.

Trained as a jazz singer at the New England Conservatory of Music, Heather Masse is equally versed in a variety of traditions — folk, pop, bluegrass, and more. As member of Billboard-charting group The Wailin’ Jennys, she has performed at hundreds of venues across the world. She was a frequent guest on A Prairie Home Companion, both solo and with The Jennys. One reviewer rightly lauded her “lush velvety vocals, capable of melting butter in a Siberian winter.”

 Prudence Johnson‘s long and happy career as a singer, writer, and teacher has landed her on the musical theater stage, in two feature films (A River Runs Through It and A Prairie Home Companion), on a national radio show (several stints on A Prairie Home Companion) and on concert stages across North America and occasionally Europe. She has released more than a dozen recordings, including albums dedicated to the music of Hoagy Carmichael and Greg Brown, and a collection of international lullabies.

 For 23 years, Richard Dworsky served as A Prairie Home Companion’s pianist and music director, providing original theatrical underscoring, leading the house band, and performing as a featured soloist. The St. Paul, Minnesota, native also accompanied many of the show’s guests, including James Taylor, Bonnie Raitt, Yo-Yo Ma, Sheryl Crow, Chet Atkins, Renée Fleming, and Kristin Chenoweth.

 Dan Chouinard is a St. Paul-based honky-tonk pianist, concert soloist and accompanist, street accordionist, sing-along enabler, Italian and French teacher, and bicycling vagabond. He’s been writer and host of a number of live history-with-music shows broadcast on Minnesota Public Radio and Twin Cities Public Television. He played on a dozen live broadcasts of A Prairie Home Companions plus a half dozen APHC cruises, and served as rehearsal pianist for Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, and Lindsay Lohan on the 2005 APHC movie. He’s featured on a number of recordings with Prairie Home regulars Peter Ostroushko, Prudence Johnson and Maria Jette.

 Composer/arranger/producer/guitarist Dean Magraw performed and recorded extensively with Ukrainian American virtuoso Peter Ostroushko over several decades, and he has worked with some of the finest musicians in the North America, Europe, and Japan. As one of his collaborators commented, “Dean Magraw’s guitar playing transcends, transports, and lifts the soul to a higher level as he weaves, cajoles, and entices every note from his instrument.”

Recent reviews:

“Fans laughed, applauded and sang along throughout Sunday night’s two-hour show” -Jeff Baenen, AP News

“His shows can, for a couple of hours, transform an audience of even so-called coastal elites into a small-town community with an intimacy only radio and its podcast descendants can achieve” -Chris Barton, LA Times

“[Keillor is] an expert at making you feel at home with his low-key, familiar style. Comfortable is his specialty.” -Betsie Freeman, Omaha-World Herald

 

To shop merchandise related to Garrison Keillor, A Prairie Home Companion, and The Writer’s Almanac, visit our new online store >>>

To make a donation to The Writer’s Almanac,            click here >>>