Prairie Home Will No Longer Have Its Companion

After more than 40 years, Garrison Keillor is bowing out.

By Nick Esquer January 5, 2016 Published in the January 2016 issue of Houstonia Magazine

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For over 40 years, his distinctive baritone has reached out to Americans through the radio, making them nostalgic via storytelling. Now, as Garrison Keillor—with his trademark red Converse, hound-dog face and arid sense of humor—enters the last season of his Saturday-night radio program, A Prairie Home Companion, he’s going on a solo tour, sharing personal stories about life as a humorist and the memories he’s made on stage.

How has Keillor’s barnstorming radio play—with its interviews, live music, fake ads for rhubarb pie and powder milk biscuits, and inimitable “News from Lake Wobegon”—survived network television, cable and the Internet? Simple: people love a good yarn, even in today’s world of truncated attention spans. “All a story needs is a willing heart and space to tell it. You create that space,” he tells us in an e-mail. Other mediums, particularly social media, are “fun and all, but they can bully us and we shouldn’t let them. Stand up and say your piece.”

When he retires, Keillor will most miss the show’s live audiences. “You walk out on stage and there they are,” he says, “all excited that stuff is about to happen, and their excitement is transmitted to you—you, who have been doing this for most of your adult life, get a little giddy. It’s not easy to be giddy at the age of 73.”

As for his life after radio, Keillor has his ambitions. “I am a great Starter of Projects, and now I need to become a Finisher,” he says, referring to the pile of incomplete screenplays, memoirs and novels he plans to tackle. “My office at home is a horror, and I’ve recently set up shop on the kitchen table. And if I don’t take measures soon, we will have a Collyer Brothers situation: ‘Man Found Trapped Under Own Manuscripts.’”

Jan. 27, 7:30 p.m. $35–165, Jones Hall, 615 Louisiana St., 713-224-7575.

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