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Last Updated: Thursday, 4 January 2007, 12:38 GMT
Radio's enduring appeal
Garrison Keillor
Radio man: Keillor, and Meryl Streep, in the Prairie Home Companion film

For 30 years Garrison Keillor has hosted an old-style weekly variety show on American radio. As a movie of the show, A Prairie Home Companion, is released in the UK, he tells why the spoken word can still win through in today's multimedia maelstrom.

The death of former US president Gerald Ford last week catapulted those of a certain age back to a seemingly distant era in American life, characterised by the painful memories of Watergate.

The world has changed immeasurably since a disgraced Richard Nixon handed the keys to the Oval Office to his deputy, yet one small marker of American cultural life has endured across those decades - a weekly radio show presented by the author and humorist Garrison Keillor.

Lindsay Lohan
Lindsay Lohan, among the all-star cast of the film
The show, A Prairie Home Companion, first hit the airwaves in July 1974, just as Nixon's White House was in meltdown. Barring a couple of years off-air in the late 1980s, it has been a mainstay of American public radio ever since.

A homely mix of story-telling and rootsy music, which centres on the mythical Midwest settlement of Lake Wobegon, it pulls in about four million listeners a week across 600 or so radio stations.

While it is the scourge of many right-wingers, who contend its cosiness is starkly at odds with the harsh realties of modern rural America, and point out its fan base is largely urban liberals, there's no denying the success of A Prairie Home Companion (PHC).

Among its admirers was the maverick Hollywood director Robert Altman, whose last movie before he died in November was a fictionalised portrayal of the radio show, which hits British cinemas this week. It stars Lindsay Lohan, Woody Harrelson and Meryl Streep, alongside Keillor himself.

So how does an old-style variety radio show survive in a culture obsessed with fast-moving, visually lush entertainment? Here, in an e-mail interview with the Magazine, Garrison Keillor explains his enduring belief in radio.

The Magazine: What does radio give that TV can't?

Alistair Cooke did his weekly letters and personified a graceful Englishness and a kind of civility that is deeply admired here still
Garrison Keillor: "Radio gives you your language. It's a perfect medium for it: poetry, comedy, narrative, or just everyday yammering and gnashing of teeth. You tend to remember what you hear whereas TV distracts you by flashing pictures at you and doing camera acrobatics. People sometimes tell me stories I told them on the radio years ago. Quite astonishing. TV has attention deficit disorder built into it, unfortunately."

How does Prairie Home Companion fit into that?

"Comfortably, I hope. And with profound gratitude."

Has there ever been an attempt to televise Prairie Home Companion?

"We do it from time to time on public TV. We did a live New Year's Eve telecast from Nashville and a Fourth of July telecast from Tanglewood in western Massachusetts. It's entertaining, trying to fight TV's insistence on cutting to a different camera shot every 2.5 seconds. I guess they think the audience is made up of 8-year-old boys. "

If Prairie Home Companion launched on radio today, would it be a success?

Woody Harrelson
Mic magic: Woody Harrelson in Prairie Home Companion, the movie
"Of course. What you need is patience and a point of view. Our sponsoring body, Minnesota Public Radio in St Paul, gave us four years to figure out how to do it before they tried for national distribution. And we have the great advantage of originating from the Midwest which sets us apart from almost everything else on national radio and TV. "

Could such a show survive outside National Public Radio in the US, as a purely commercial concern?

"Probably, but commercial radio is another planet entirely, much hotter than ours."

The Lake Wobegon style is about slow, mellow delivery, in contrast to the frenetic style of much music, chat and rolling news radio. In radio, is less more?

"Oftentimes less is less, but there's much to be said for economy and elegance. Alastair Cooke did his weekly letters [for the BBC] and in them he summoned up whole worlds and personified a graceful Englishness and a kind of civility that is deeply admired here still. He did it all in a couple thousand words. I don't feel that the News from Lake Wobegon monologue [a central part of each Prairie Home Companion show] is slow or even mellow necessarily.

The movie came and went, raised some dust, gave us some entertaining moments, but the show goes on
"People face crises here. There's drama, an enormous snake lives under a house, an old woman is lost, a man tries to escape from his deer-hunting buddies, a herd of turtles moves through town on their annual migration, Christmas must be faced. But it does deal with real things, unlike politics these days and most entertainment shows, which seem to involve fantasies of violence."

Radio requires of the listener a degree of imagination - so how has "seeing the show" (though Altman's movie) changed listeners' appreciation of it?

"The movie came and went, raised some dust, gave us some entertaining moments on the red carpet with cameras flashing and the famous and near-famous hob-nobbing, but the show goes on. I'm writing the show for next Saturday and then I'll write the next one and the next. I think the listeners enjoyed the movie as a sort of inside joke (they knew that the show in the movie is not the show they hear on the radio) but it doesn't bear a great deal of analysis."

What about the internet - PHC is streamed on it, but why is it not available as a podcast; something that could bring it a far wider audience?

"The clearance of music rights is a headache, one we plan to solve. Soon, I hope."

A weekly one hour highlights show drawn from Prairie Home Companion is broadcast as Garrison Keillor's Radio Show on BBC 7 every Saturday at noon and 2300 GMT.


Add your comments on this story, using the form below.

Although I'm a big Radio 4 fan, I can't think of a British equivalent. Come on Commissioning Editors - could be a good replacement for Any Answers or the succession of business orientated programmes that stultify and atrophy the Saturday afternoon and Sunday evening air waves.
Andy, Cardiff

It is the abilty of radio to allow language to build an image in the mind that Vivian Stanshall so successfully utilised in "Rawlinson End"
Paul Vear, Southampton

Garrison Keillor perfectly defines a feeling that I have had for many years. As a primary school teacher with an interest in Special Educational Needs I have long been aware that today's children find listening much harder that we did as children, brought up as we were on "Listen With Mother" and listening to Mrs. Dale's Diary and Housewives Choice with our mothers. If I had to choose between giving up Radio or TV, the TV would have to go!
Carol Walters, Bangor, Northern Ireland

Garrison Keillor's show was one of the prime reasons for my switch to DAB, it's a terrific way to gently enter the world on a Sunday morning (BBC7, for those who have missed it so far!).
Andy, London, England

I've been a Lake Wobegon fan for years and love Garrison Keillor's wit and humanity. Can't wait to see the film.
Wendy White, Cambridge UK

We just moved back to England after living in the Twin Cities, Minnesota for several years. We listened to PHC regularly and even had a chance to see a broadcast live at the local theatre. It's hilarious and in today's world very original! I'd be great if it became available as podcast, so we could listen to it again over here.
A J, Surrey

I discovered APHC a few years ago when a Radio 4 show included a clip in which Keillor and friends produced a spoof series of news reports about the war against the Taleban in the wake of 9/11. It was genuinely one of the funniest sketches I've ever heard and I've been hooked on the show ever since. Long may it continue.
Jim Hewitt, Aldershot, England

My husband and I returned to the UK in April after spending two years working in the USA. We listened to public radio and A Prairie Home Companion was one of our favourite programmes. Opera singer Renee Fleming, the 'lives of the cowboys', a youth music festival, and of course the weekly 'news from Lake Wobegon'- if you haven't done so already log on and listen to it!
Liz Cook, Carlisle UK

Having grown up in rural Minnesota, when I first listened to PHC I "didn't get it." It was filled with characters so familiar I wondered why is this exceptional. After getting out in the world I now see its point of view. A religions professor pointed out "Keillor has a talent for bringing us right to the edge of sacrilege, then pulling us back with humor and insight."
Bruce Ohnstad, Minneapolis, MN USA

Prairie Home Companion is aired twice each weekend in Houston. It is a delightful respite from the crassness of other media, along with other NPR weekend offerings such as Car Talk. May the show continue strong for many years to come.
Telfryn John, Cypress, Texas USA

I have been hooked on Lake Wobegon and Garrison Keillor's stories for many years.. It is too easy to say that Americans are loud, right-wing, stupid, or many other such things. He shows us a different place, a place where imperfection shines through, where people have problems but help each other. And not a mention of apple pie!
John, Manchester, UK

It was about six years ago a friend sent me a tape of a GK radio show from the US. Since then I've caught snippets of him on the BBC but it would be great to hear more of him over here. I'm certain, as suggested by previous observations, he'd find a wide and appreciative audience in the UK.
Quentin Cox, Portsmouth UK

Radio as a medium is so old fashioned and boring. Totally outdated. I can think of nothing worse than being tied to a chair and forced to listen to Terry wogan on Radio 2.
James Hall, London

You can also listen to APHC over the internet, at a time that suits you. Follow the link from: http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/ And enjoy!
Arden, York, UK

That sounds like good listneing. Come on BBC, let us analogue listeners hear it too; we have Bob Dylan's show already. Friday night would be good, when Mark R isn't on, but sunday night would be good also.
antony solomon, northampton uk

My wife and I saw the Prairie Home Companion movie as the "surprise screening" at the London Film Festival last year and I can't recommend it highly enough. It's classic Altman with a superb ensemble cast and the barest whiff of a plot! One of the mellowest movie-going experiences I can recall.
Luke, London

I too came upon APHC while living in Maryland in the '80s. I loved listening to the tales of this mythical town and think that Garrison Keillor is sublime. I bought some of the books when back in the UK, but now that I know it is on Radio 7 I can start tuning in again.
Richard King, Southampton, England

The CBC in Canada has always tried to retain some semblance of what the BBC always did well and that is give it's home country a sense of self. PHC tries to do that as well. I've always felt like I was in touch with the best of what America attempts to be when listening to it. In much the same way Stewart Maclean's Vinyl Cafe (CBC radio 1) or Andy Donnelly's Celtic show(Canada's CKUA public radio) represents the same. Public radio which attempts to cut through the "sell the audience things at all cost" mentality. Rather, it reaches for a common understanding and a common human approach to the world and it's trials, tribulations and triumphs. Long live PHC and Keillor. America needs it.
Andy, Edmonton, Canada

Just want to add my support for Radio, all the previous comments cover all the points. The introduction of DAB Digital Radio has been a huge boon to Radio. The Garrison Keiller Radio Show is terrific and now we have the added bonus of THEJAZZ station, grrrrreat.
David Rose, Gloucester, UK

Today's commercial television lacks substance, good standards, and sincerity to its audience. Programming like Prairie Home Companion is one of those rare shows that bring people closer with its folksy, intelligent, humorous approach. I commend the entire team for their good work, and hope TV executives could learn from programs like PHC.
Jeff Khan, New York, USA

"While it is the scourge of many right-wingers, who contend its cosiness is starkly at odds with the harsh realties of modern rural America, and point out its fan base is largely urban liberals," I find it just lovely how bbcnews says this without one single right-winger backing it up. Just good ole reporting that a southern boy like me can choke on.
Sean, Tennessee, USA

I frequently listen to Radio 4 and the other night, about midnight (the most interesting items seem to be late evening)I was listening to a programme" Humour in Wales". I couldn't stop laughing, especially when Ryan, who sadly is dead, was telling his stories. I am of an age where I can remember Uncle Mac and the Ovaltinies and dashing in from play to hear the serial "Dai & Horace and the Man from Mars. Wonderfull stuff, makes your imagination work Ken.
Ken Jones, Skewen, Neath, West Glamorgan

Radio is wonderful. But Garrison Keillor is the worst thing ever to appear on it.
GJP, Reading

For something of the same genre, try Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe on CBC (Canada).
ADT, Bucks

I've been listening to the Prairie Home Companion on and off for 17 years here in the States and it is a delight. I think it would apeal to the people back home because it pokes fun at all kinds of serious things in the news and reminds us all not to take life too seriously. It is entirely original. Garrison is a born story teller and has a voice I could listen to till the cows came home and he may surprise you what he's prepared to take the micky out of without hurting anyones feelings.
Kathryn Leeson-Kight, Corpus Christi, Tx USA (English ex-pat)

For me, TV never wins over radio. In today's dumbed down TV culture which spoon-feeds mass "entertainment", radio in all its forms comes as a refreshing and vital medium. Whether its drama, music, sport or the spoken word, radio has the ability to provide a level of high class entertainment which enables us, the listener, to focus on the matter in hand without distraction. Verbal "pictures" provided by good quality commentators are far more powerful than anything TV can offer. One only has to see the variety of radio stations now available on DAB to see why radio wins hands down. Its just a pity that whoever regulates the DAB service has defeated the objective for a very high quality of received signal (almost CD quality is possible on DAB) in a effort to maximise revenue by cramming as many stations into the bandwith allocation. In truth a good FM analogue signal is of far better quality than nearly all of the stations on DAB where many are using as little as 96kbps in mono - rubbish.
Vince Shirley, Belper, Derbyshire

I live in the USA and love listening to the radio and Garrison Keeler's programme is brilliant - you can use your imagination listening to it and my wife Kay and I love his wit and jokes and his takes on the President and anyone else who is in the news. He had a special on the Public Broadcasting TV on New Years Eve which was fabulous. Long may Garrison and his friends rule on the radio and Long Live Radio. Kay and Peter Barnett
Peter Barnett, Seminole, USA

Just reading this report reminded me of Fanny Flagg's novels set in the same area of the US. I can't wait to tune in on Saturday. What fun.
Jacqui, London

We dispensed with our TV a number of years ago. PHC is now the highlight of our week, (we listen to the entire 2 hour long edition over the internet). I'm not a urban lefty by any stretch of the imagination, but the narrative of Keillor surpasses anything else on the radio. Are we so lacking in talent here in the UK to produce anything comparable or do we really believe that the British only have a 2.5 second attention span?
Roy Campbell, Clogher, N. Ireland

It's a great show that emanates warmth and good humour. Go check it out on BBC's Radio Player (in the comedy section).
Ed, Ipswich, England

It is nice to find that the USA has produced something that some people seem to like.
DD, USA

I became a fan of A Prarie Home Companion in the 80's when living in California. Upon returning to the UK last year I was delighted to find it here, on DAB, reminding us of what good radio can still sound like, if we but try. The only reason the Golden Age of radio is passed is because we have largely given up trying.
Steven Butten, Margate, England

I am disappointed by the number of people who just see radio as a source of listening to music. Radio makes you think a lot more than television. A play on television merely gives you a directors interpretation ... a play on radio allows you to create your own character visualisations and settings ... a chance to use your imagination. Give me (decent) radio any day
Paul Ostermeyer, Milton Keynes, UK

We did have a not disimilar programme - Home Truths.
Alison Auld, Aberdeenshire

The BBC has totally failed to replace Alastair Cooke's weekly essay: this would seem a ready-made replacement and much, much better than most of the programmes currently going out on the national radio networks, especially the so-called comedies. I would certainly wish to listen, having already read Keillor's books. I imagine the cost would be minimal.
Michael Parker, Farnborough, Hampshire, England

Lake Wobegon -- marvellous! How come the BBC has never come up with its home-grown equal? Use it to replace Any Answers, by all means. But save the business programmes, please. They are sparse enough and the media, and media types, too often forget that it's business that keeps everything, yes everything else running. But who could do a British Lake Wobegon? I'm afraid I'd have to rule out most of the usual suspects (Titchmarsh, Fry, Snow, Rhys-Jones etc) and anybody too fond of the 'f' word! If that doesn't leave anyone suitable I suppose that may be why it hasn't been done. Sad!
Harry Hall, Chippenham, Wilts

I had an American friend who was a big PHC fan and I first heard the show on a Greyhound bus going from Boston to New York. I thought it was wonderful. Now I listen to it on BBC7 or over the internet. The show has broadcast from outside the US only on two occasions; in Edinburgh it was only a couple of blocks from where I live...and I got the last ticket. It must have been about 7 years ago and I think I was the only non-American in audience.
E Hutton, Edinburgh, UK

It is fantastic, you slip into a trance whilst listening to it. Those without DAB can appreciate it by reading "Lake Wobegon Days" and other books based on the fictional town in the midwest. Having listened to the show, I found myself reading it in GK's voice/style. Unmissable radio.
jonathan lethbridge, london

For something of the same genre, try Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe on CBC (Canada). ADT, Bucks I've been listening to the Prairie Home Companion on and off for 17 years here in the States and it is a delight. I think it would apeal to the people back home because it pokes fun at all kinds of serious things in the news and reminds us all not to take life too seriously. It is entirely original. Garrison is a born story teller and has a voice I could listen to till the cows came home and he may surprise you what he's prepared to take the micky out of without hurting anyones feelings. Kathryn Leeson-Kight, Corpus Christi, Tx USA (English ex-pat) For me, TV never wins over radio. In today's dumbed down TV culture which spoon-feeds mass "entertainment", radio in all its forms comes as a refreshing and vital medium. Whether its drama, music, sport or the spoken word, radio has the ability to provide a level of high class entertainment which enables us, the listener, to focus on the matter in hand without distraction. Verbal "pictures" provided by good quality commentators are far more powerful than anything TV can offer. One only has to see the variety of radio stations now available on DAB to see why radio wins hands down. Its just a pity that whoever regulates the DAB service has defeated the objective for a very high quality of received signal (almost CD quality is possible on DAB) in a effort to maximise revenue by cramming as many stations into the bandwith allocation.
lade, london

I hooked my computer to my Hi Fi, and listened to the Christmas edition of APHC while making Christmas Puddings for my family. Garrison Keiller must be one of the best story tellers ever, and for me it was a magical afternoon of fictional home-spun fantasy. The perfect way to escape the realities of South London.
Stephen Coote, London

I have listened to APHC, particularly the "News from Lake Wobegon" for years, There are huge numbers of CD's available (which have to be ordered from the USA. Long car journeys fly by as you listen of the quaint and quirky Mid West characters, not dissimilar to "Northern Exposure". APHC needs to be aired at a sensible time, and Garrison Keillor needs to bring his show over to the UK (again) once in a while.
Andrew Knights, Thorney, Peterborough

I used to listen to PHC regularly when I lived in the US, it was one of the radio highlights of the week. Glad to hear there is a version on BBC7, but why not Radio4? It is perfect for that station.
Annette Argent, London

Prairie Home Companion is THE ONLY thing we miss from American radio after our seven long summers in Houston. Where can one buy Bee-Bop-A-Ree-Bop Rhubarb Paaaay? Someone should sell it over here!
John Fleming, Surrey

BBC have the makings for a programme like PHC across your many quirky regional towns in the U.K. You have the great local music, the fantastic varied accents from district to district, the oddball local humour and, of course, your never ending supply of off the wall politics. Find the appropriate host and get after it. You'll have a lot of fun and so will your radio listeners.
John Harrington, Salt Lake City, Utah USA

Why not leave the name on Radio 7 as "Prairie Home Companion"? Garrison Keillor's Radio Show is not quite as catchy. And why bother with "While it is the scourge of many right-wingers..." Is it? I must have missed the frothing mouths of the nasty neo-cons fuming over PHC at the water cooler. Just can't resist it at the oh-so-impartial BBC, can you.
Nick, Kent, England & D.C, USA

Is it simply an American version of "The Archers"?
Mark Gerdes, Bingley, West Yorkshire

TV can hand you every bit of a story, and therefore once it starts down that road it *has* to hand you all of the story. It pushes your brain into the "off" position. Radio, on the other hand, gives you a bit of the story and your imagination supplies the rest. It is a more involved process for the listener. A subtle partnership between radio and listener. PHC is the best of that.
Craig, Silli-con Valley, US

I'm going to give PHC a listen now that I know about it. I'll also watch the movie when it comes out on DVD if I feel it will do the radio show justice. I just may disconnect my TV for periods of time and have the kids listen in too. What a great way to use your imagination, have fun, learn something new and develop patience. Hooray for Mr. Keillor. Keep up the good work.
Annette Nicholls, Richmond/Vancouver (Canada)

In the States the radio show is two hours long; on BBC7 we get the condensed 60 minute version. Wonderful though that is, it would be wonderfuller to enjoy the full 120 each week.
Rob Kennedy, London

I listen to the Today program every morning on longwave radio - I hate only when it turns over to "Today in Parliment". Longwave rocks, I would be lost without it
Emma, Luxembourg

One of our local NPR (public radio) stations airs the BBC World Service overnight. It would be an interesting switch if Radio 4 aired NPR programming after it signs off.
Mort, Detroit US

My mother would always call me into the room whenever Prairie Home Companion came on. We'd sit and listen so attentively to Garrison's Tales of colorful characters and their equally colorful situations. Although I grew up in Minnesota, I was never familiar with it's small town life, but felt that I knew Garrison's characters already. I'm so happy to hear that Garrison's stories can be heard in the UK! (That means I'll be able to listen to him while I'm living in England later this year!)Thank you!
Rikki R., Minneapolis, Minnesota USA

I agree, PHC is the best in USA and portrays rural life. Living in Houston Texas for 12 years it was one of the few sane shows in TV and radio. I also agree with the person who mentioned "Click and Clack" otherwise known as Car Talk. I think that program would go down really well on BBC radio. Jack Wolstenholme, Accrington, Lancs.
Jack Wolstenholme, Accrington, UK

I had the pleasure of attending a live broadcast of the show from a theatre off London's Haymarket back in the early 90s. It started at about 11pm which made it slightly surreal as did having the theatre's house lights up throughout the show. I was already a fan of Garrison's Wobegone in book form and the show was a delight. There were sketches with Barry Cryer I seem to remember and a song by Elizabeth Welch. It must have finished very late and I must have had to endure the night bus home and been tired at work the next day but it was so worth it.
Paul Moynihan, London, UK

Lake Wobegon mythical ? Whaaat !!!!!
The Limey, Chicago

TV today has a lot of show put on that don't have any meaning. The shows lack a plot. When Garrison Keillor is broadcasted, the PHC show attracts peoples attention because the show actually has something to say. When you hear it on the radio, just like you might do when watching the show, you can easily get a picture of what keillor is saying. On other shows, it's a bit harder. Garrison Keillor should make the show podacast, that way people could watch the show over and over again.
Ellia Tsoukalas, West Lafayette, Indiana, USA

Prairie Home Companion is an absolute delight. I doubt that the BBC could come up with an equivalent - they would only dumb it down.
Tom, Lanark

As an ex pat and avid listener to any radio, (listen again), programs coming from the BBC it was a relief to find the NPR station and particularly,Prairie Home Companion. I listen every week, savouring every minute.
Vanessa, Mission Viejo, USA

If you enjoy Garrison Keillor and PHC you may also enjoy his "Writers Almanac" a daily 5 minute programme on American Public Radio (APR) and available from them as a podcast. It is a reflection on people or events associated with day in question followed by apoem.
neil maclean, aberdeen

I grew up in the states and my family have listened to this show for years, ever since i can remember. Ive never experianced anything like it any where else. Its a wonderful relaxing anf funny show. I have many many memories of sitting with my grand mother listening to PHC. And now that i know i can listen in the uk....I shall.
kathryn mills, plymouth u/k

If you had to locate Lake Wobegon in UK, it would fit right here in Marlborough! Bring it on! and while you're at it, let's have 'Car Talk' as well.
Tony Castles, Marlborough, UK

Radio rules in our home. Unlike TV which selfishly demands total attention, radio is like a good friend who doesn't get jealous when your mind wanders. My Christmas present this year, a WiFi radio with thousands of stations.
Luke, Stockholm

For more than one reason-not that I'm immune to its lure-, I have never owned a TV. On the other hand radio is far more related to literature, and so it challenges our imagination. I had a shocking realization of how much more we can make out of listening versus watching. Back in the old country, I used to "watch" on FM radio movies spoken in English to fine-tune my listening comprehension. I once "watched" a movie about a kidnaping, which seemed to be a real cliff-hanger-dark and full of tension. Several years later in the US, I actually recognized the movie on TV. To this day I remember the shock I had seeing that what in my mind had been a very dramatic story was so incredibly lame.
nick, United States

Having only just returned after 4 years in the U.S I can honestly say that Prairie Home Companion was a great example of American comedic genius. If only it was more readily available here in the UK it might undo some damage in the two countries relations. That and Jon Stewart s the Daily Show should get prime time exposure here.
Martin Bentley, Southwell UK

Been an avid radio fan for years. I do believe that Tv ought to carry a health warning along the lines of 'switch me on, I can't rot your brains unless you switch me on'. We have had (and still do in one or two cases) some excellent people behind the mike in the uk, presenters who don't preach to us or give us what are their considered 'thoughtspeak'. I much prefer listening to the likes of Ray Moore, (sadly no longer)John Dunne, Ricahrd Allinson (have been a fan for years) Johhny Walker and Ken Bruce. The unfortunate return of the Ginger Whinger to mainstream radio, the neverending self-humour of The Windbag (Wogan) and the hugely self important 'Big Show' during the afternoons mean that nowadays I listen to a whole lot less Radio. I want to be entertained as a thinking individual, not programmed like a computer. I will listen out for BBC 7.
Frank , Hampshire, UK

The thing about Gary Keillor and APHC is that there's an edge, all right, but unlike Sinclair Lewis (who hailed from the same part of central Minnesota as does Keillor), he learned early on to hide his edge and use it in ways that were cutting both to himself and his targets; thus he avoids Lewis' conceit of imagining himself to be superior to the people he writes about. By the way, if you ever get to Saint Paul, go check out his new bookstore, Common Good Books, at the corner of Selby and Western (165 Western Ave N Suite 14 St. Paul, MN 55102). It's well worth the visit, and not just for the chance to see the proprietor when he's in town. The website is here: http://garrison.booksense.com/
PW, Saint Paul, Minnesota, USA

Maybe I'm blind, but I contend that Prairie Home Companion transcends "liberal" and "conservative" categories. It has a universal appeal, although it is broadcast from a traditionally left-leaning part of the country. It is also a traditionally Lutheran part of the country, as evidenced by Keillor's stories, but he doesn't push any agenda or make the listener think that one side or the other is better. He seems to completely ignore the artificial dichotomy that so many in America are willing to almost die for, and that is a blessed change. I think we would all do better to try to further the human cause, rather than getting caught up once more in the quagmire of liberal vs. conservative. Garrison Keillor accomplishes this admirably through his radio program.
Ben Griffin, Waco, TX, USA

I am sorry but commercials get a bigger audience than 4 mill. Garrison Keillor is hardly known to the US public - that is why he has been trying to "make it" in the UK - and as "nice and folksy" as his prog. maybe that style of programing went out in the 50's.
Colin, Los Angeles

Radio for me, has a lot more to offer. I enjoy the mix posed by the Beeb on BBC Radio 2,3, and 4 and many other music and chat stations. There is some truth in the 'attention span' of the TV, whereas with Radio you have comedy, debate, travel and news among many other topics that lead you to them, without detracting from what you are doing.
Chris Paul, Kent/West Sussex, UK

PHC and Garrison Keillor are the best things on BBC 7, along with Stuart McLean's Vinyl Cafe and Tom Bodett's Christmastime at the End of the Road. Who needs TV? Certainly not me!
Delyth Mattingly, Huntingdon, Cambs

You know, I first heard this when I was 24 or so (on a Sunday evening I believe) at my in-laws house over dinner. I remember thinking, 'oh man, this is some old people crap or something.' But, a few minutes into it, I found myself really enjoying it. It seemed as if the performers are doing it for the love, not the wage. Sunday dinner was a regular thing at the in-laws place, and for a while, we listened to PHC during the meal. I have nothing but good memories about those times. To all those across the pond, I recommend the film highly. Garrison Keillor is just great.
Ryan , Portland, Oregon USA

Would love to hear the show. Sounds like something the BBC use to do in the 50s on the Home Service. Why can the BBC not rebroadcast it.
Martin Maynard, Pangbourne

I've never listened to APHC but have read many of the books - and have laughed out loud many a time on the way to work. Maybe it's time I started listening, if I can just fit it in somwehere!!
Paul, Liverpool

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