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Feature

Garrison Keillor

U alum and radio personality Garrison Keillor will host "A Prairie Home Companion" from the Twin Cities and Morris campuses this winter and teach an English writing class in the spring.

Keillor and gang at the U

By Pauline Oo

January 13, 2006; updated January 17, 2006

In 1966, Garrison Keillor graduated from the University of Minnesota. In 1974, he hosted the first live broadcast of "A Prairie Home Companion" and 12 people attended, mostly children. Today, the U alum and his laugh-out-loud radio variety show capture more than 4 million listeners nationwide each week.

Keillor will bring Guy Noir, Lake Wobegon, and the Ketchup Advisory Board to life this Saturday (January 21) at the Ted Mann Concert Hall on the Twin Cities campus in Minneapolis. On Saturday, February 11, Keillor and company take "A Prairie Home Companion" to the University of Minnesota, Morris (UMM).

"Luckily, that failing grade in organic chemistry does not disqualify us from doing live radio on campus," notes Keillor on the show's Web site.

The show is now in its 31st year of production and is aired by more than 550 public radio stations in the United States. (Minnesota Public Radio airs it live every Saturday night from 5 to 7 p.m. and rebroadcasts the show on Sundays at 11 a.m.) Listeners abroad catch the show on America One, and those in Europe and the Far East tune in to it on the Armed Forces Networks. An alternative edition of the show is broadcast in the United Kingdom by BBC 7 and in Ireland by RT? under the name "Garrison Keillor's Radio Show." New Zealand's National Radio carries it from time to time.

"When the show started, it was something funny to do with my friends, and then it became an achievement that I hoped would be successful, and now it's a good way of life," says Keillor on the Web site.

Keillor, a native of Anoka, Minnesota, began his radio career at the University of Minnesota's Radio K (770 AM, 106.5 FM, and 100.7 FM). In addition to being the host and writer of "A Prairie Home Companion," he is the author of more than a dozen books, including Lake Wobegon Days, The Book of Guys, Love Me, and Homegrown Democrat. In the spring of 2001, Keillor cotaught Composition of Comedy (ENGW3110) at the U with fellow alum Shannon Olson, author of Welcome to My Planet Where English is Sometimes Spoken. This spring, the man with the booming voice and bushy eyebrows will once again teach that undergraduate course.

"I love those moments when young talent displays itself," says Keillor, "and in a comedy writing class, it is displayed over and over and over. My job is simply to admire it, and I can do that pretty well."

Prairie Home: the movie

A film version of the radio show written by and starring Keillor is due for release sometime this year. (Parts of the movie were filmed last summer at the Fitzgerald Theatre in St. Paul.) The show, a fictional representation of behind-the-scenes activities on a long-running radio show that has unexpectedly been cancelled, will include Kevin Kline, John Reilly, Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Lily Tomlin, Maya Rudolph, Woody Harrelson, Virginia Madsen, Tommy Lee Jones, and L.Q. Jones. Robert Altman (with help from Paul Thomas Anderson) is the director.

Although regularly priced tickets are sold out for both 4:45 p.m. performances on the Twin Cities campus, you can try your luck with rush tickets beginning at 2:30 p.m. on the day of the show. (For standing room, tickets are $14 plus a $4 handling fee; for seats, $15 plus $4. There is a two-ticket limit. Call 612-624-2345 for more information.) Tickets are still available for the 4:45 p.m. broadcast on the Morris campus in the Physical Education Center--$45 for the general public and $15 for UMM students; MPR members receive a $2 discount--and go on sale Wednesday, January 18 at 10 a.m. You can buy them from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m. by calling 320-589-6356 or visiting the Student Center in Oyate Hall at UMM.

"It seems overdue for the best and most popular radio show in the nation to come to the University of Minnesota, Morris, America's best public liberal arts college," says UMM chancellor Sam Schuman. "Morris is not Lake Wobegon, but we, too, are on the edge of the prairie, and all our children are way above average." To learn more about A Prairie Home Companion or find a radio station that airs the show, see Prairie Home.