Saturday, July 4, 2009

Garrison Keillor

By David Luhrssen
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With his mellifluous, instantly recognizable voice, Garrison Keillor has become the avatar of everyday America through his popular program, A Prairie Home Companion. Always wanting to be a writer, Keillor entered the profession through the side door of radio.

His talents for wry observation found a perfect medium in A Prairie Home Companion. When he debuted the program in the 70s, it was already a living museum of broadcasting history, a variety show with guest entertainers, skits with recurring characters and Keillor as the genial host, maintaining a tone of folksy yet sophisticated humor.

Out on DVD, Garrison Keillor: The Man on the Radio in the Red Shoes follows him through broadcasts, backstage interviews and rambles to the fair and the rhubarb festival. He is the calm moderator, the eye of a quiet storm. Each episode of A Prairie Home Companion is written and rehearsed within days and broadcast live. So much could go wrong and nothing ever does.

Keillors humor involves an acceptance of the oddity in the ordinary. Although his remarks are seldom pointedly political, A Prairie Home Companion is an implied call for restoring the tattered bonds of genuine community. Its a fortunate life, he says of his ability to earn a living being Garrison Keillor. One small disappointment for fans: he is seen tapping out his scripts on a laptop, not an Underwood typewriter.

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