Garrison Keillor

Garrison Keillor
Birth name Gary Edward Keillor
Born August 7, 1942 (1942-08-07) (age 69)
Anoka, Minnesota
Medium Radio, Print
Nationality American
Years active 1969–present
Genres Observational comedy, Satire
Subject(s) American culture (esp. the Midwest); American politics
Spouse Mary Guntzel (1965–1976)
Ulla Skaerved (1985–1990)
Jenny Lind Nilsson (1995–present)
Notable works and roles Himself, Guy Noir, Lefty, Bob Burger, and Lake Wobegon narrator in A Prairie Home Companion

Gary Edward "Garrison" Keillor (born August 7, 1942) is an American author, storyteller, humorist, and radio personality. He is known as host of the Minnesota Public Radio show A Prairie Home Companion (also known as Garrison Keillor's Radio Show on United Kingdom's BBC Radio 4 Extra, as well as on RTÉ in Ireland, Australia's ABC, and Radio New Zealand National in New Zealand).


Personal life

Keillor was born in Anoka, Minnesota, the son of Grace Ruth (née Denham) and John Philip Keillor, who was a carpenter and postal worker.[1][2] The family belonged to the Plymouth Brethren, a fundamentalist Christian denomination Keillor has since left. He is six feet, three inches (1.9 m) tall[3] and has Scots and Norwegian ancestry. Keillor is a member of the Democratic-Farmer-Labor Party.[4] In 2006 he told Christianity Today that he was attending the Episcopal church in Saint Paul, after previously attending a Lutheran church in New York.[5][6] He graduated from the University of Minnesota with a bachelor's degree in English in 1966. While there, he began his broadcasting career on the student-operated radio station known today as Radio K.

Keillor has been married three times:[7]

  • To Mary Guntzel, from 1965 to 1976. The couple has one son, Jason, born in 1969.
  • To Ulla Skaerved (a former exchange student from Denmark at Keillor's high school whom he famously re-encountered at a class reunion), from 1985 to 1990.
  • To violinist Jenny Lind Nilsson (b. 1957), who is from his hometown of Anoka, since 1995. They have one daughter, Maia Grace Keillor, born December 29, 1997.[8]

Between his first and second marriages he was also romantically involved with Margaret Moos, who worked as a producer of A Prairie Home Companion.[9]

The Keillors maintain homes on the Upper West Side of New York City and in Saint Paul, Minnesota.

One of his brothers, the historian Steven Keillor, is also an author.[10]

On September 7, 2009, Keillor was briefly hospitalized after suffering a minor stroke.[11]


In his book Homegrown Democrat (2004), Keillor mentions some of his noteworthy ancestors, including Joseph Crandall,[12] who was an associate of Roger Williams (who founded the first American Baptist church as well as Rhode Island), and Prudence Crandall, who founded the first African-American women's school in America.[13]


Keillor in 2010, wearing his signature red shoes


Garrison Keillor started his professional radio career in November 1969 with Minnesota Educational Radio (MER), now Minnesota Public Radio (MPR) and distributing programs under the American Public Media (APM) brand. He hosted The Morning Program in the weekday drive time slot of 6 to 9 a.m. on KSJR 90.1 FM at St. John's University in Collegeville, which the station called "A Prairie Home Entertainment." The show's eclectic music was a major divergence from the station's usual classical fare. During this time he also began submitting fiction to The New Yorker, where his first story, "Local Family Keeps Son Happy," appeared on September 19, 1970.[14]

Keillor resigned from The Morning Program in February 1971 to protest what he considered an attempt to interfere with his musical programming. The show became A Prairie Home Companion when he returned in October.[15]

Keillor has attributed the idea for the live Saturday night radio program to his 1973 assignment to write about the Grand Ole Opry for The New Yorker, but he had already begun showcasing local musicians on the morning show, despite limited studio space for them, and in August 1973 The Minneapolis Tribune reported MER's plans for a Saturday night version of A Prairie Home Companion with live musicians.[15][16]

A Prairie Home Companion debuted as an old-style variety show before a live audience on July 6, 1974, featuring guest musicians and a cadre cast doing musical numbers and comic skits replete with elaborate live sound effects. The show was punctuated by spoof commercial spots from such fictitious sponsors as Jack's Auto Repair ("All tracks lead to Jack's where the bright shining lights show you the way to complete satisfaction") and Powdermilk Biscuits, which "give shy persons the strength to get up and do what needs to be done."[15] Later imaginary sponsors have included Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery ("If you can't find it at Ralph's, you can probably get along without it"), Bertha's Kitty Boutique, the Ketchup Advisory Board[17] (which touted "the natural mellowing agents of ketchup"), the American Duct Tape Council, and Bebop-A-Reebop Rhubarb Pie ("sweetening the sour taste of failure through the generations"). The show also contains parodic serial melodramas, such as The Adventures of Guy Noir, Private Eye and The Lives of the Cowboys. After the show's intermission, Keillor reads clever and often humorous greetings to friends and family at home submitted by members of the theater audience in exchange for an honorarium.

Also in the second half of the show, the broadcasts showcase a weekly monologue by Keillor entitled The News from Lake Wobegon. The town is based in part on Keillor's own hometown of Anoka, Minnesota, and in part on Freeport and other towns in Stearns County, where he lived in the early 1970s.[18] Lake Wobegon is a quintessential but fictional Minnesotan small town "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average." A Prairie Home Companion ran until 1987, when Keillor decided to end it; he worked on other projects, including another live radio program, "The American Radio Company of the Air"—which had almost the same format as A Prairie Home Companion's—for several years. In 1993 he began producing A Prairie Home Companion again, in a format nearly identical to the original's, and has done so since.[19] On A Prairie Home Companion, Keillor receives no billing or credit (except "written by Sarah Bellum," a joking reference to his own brain); his name is not mentioned unless a guest addresses him by his first name or the initials "G. K.," though some sketches feature Keillor as his alter ego, Carson Wyler.

A Prairie Home Companion regularly goes on the road and is broadcast live from popular venues around the United States, often featuring local celebrities and skits incorporating local color. Keillor also sometimes gives broadcast performances of a similar nature that do not carry the "Prairie Home Companion" brand, as in his 2008 appearance at the Oregon Bach Festival.[20] In March 2011, Keillor announced that he would be retiring from "A Prairie Home Companion" in 2013.[21]

Keillor is also the host of The Writer's Almanac which, like A Prairie Home Companion, is produced and distributed by American Public Media. The Writer's Almanac is also available online[22] and via daily e-mail installments by subscription.[23]


Keillor in 2007 in Lanesboro, Minnesota

Keillor has written numerous magazine and newspaper articles and more than a dozen books for adults as well as children. In addition to writing for The New Yorker, he has written for The Atlantic Monthly and

He also authored an advice column at under the name "Mr. Blue." Following a heart operation, he resigned on September 4, 2001, his last column being titled "Every dog has his day":[24]

Illness offers the chance to think long thoughts about the future (praying that we yet have one, dear God), and so I have, and so this is the last column of Mr. Blue, under my authorship, for Salon. Over the years, Mr. Blue's strongest advice has come down on the side of freedom in our personal lives, freedom from crushing obligation and overwork and family expectations and the freedom to walk our own walk and be who we are. And some of the best letters have been addressed to younger readers trapped in jobs like steel suits, advising them to bust loose and go off and have an adventure. Some of the advisees have written back to inform Mr. Blue that the advice was taken and that the adventure changed their lives. This was gratifying. So now I am simply taking my own advice. Cut back on obligations: Promote a certain elegant looseness in life. Simple as that. Winter and spring, I almost capsized from work, and in the summer I had a week in St. Mary's Hospital to sit and think, and that's the result. Every dog has his day and I've had mine and given whatever advice was mine to give (and a little more). It was exhilarating to get the chance to be useful, which is always an issue for a writer (What good does fiction do?), and Mr. Blue was a way to be useful. Nothing human is beneath a writer's attention; the basic questions about how to attract a lover and what to do with one once you get one and how to deal with disappointment in marriage are the stuff that fiction is made from, so why not try to speak directly? And so I did. And now it's time to move on.

In 2004 Keillor published a collection of political essays, Homegrown Democrat, and in June 2005 he began a column called "The Old Scout",[25] which ran at and in syndicated newspapers. The column went on hiatus in April 2010 "so that he [could] finish a screenplay and start writing a novel".

Keillor wrote the screenplay for the 2006 movie A Prairie Home Companion, directed by Robert Altman. (Keillor also appears in the movie.)

"Common Good Books, G. Keillor, Prop." in St. Paul


On November 1, 2006, Keillor opened an independent bookstore in the historic Cathedral Hill area of Saint Paul, Minnesota. "Common Good Books, G. Keillor, Prop."[26] is located at the southwest corner of Selby and N. Western Avenues (in the Blair Arcade Building, Suite 14, in the basement, below Nina's Coffee Cafe). Cathedral Hill is in the Summit-University neighborhood.[27] The bookstore's opening was covered by the St. Paul Pioneer Press.[28]

Awards and other recognition


In 2005, Keillor's attorneys sent a cease-and-desist letter to regarding their production of a T-shirt bearing the inscription "A Prairie Ho Companion."[34]

In 2006, after a visit to a United Methodist Church in Highland Park, Texas, Keillor created a local controversy with his remarks about the event,[35] including the rhetorical suggestion of a connection between event participants and supporters of torture and a statement creating an impression of political intimidation: "I walked in, was met by two burly security men ... and within 10 minutes was told by three people that this was the Bushes' church and that it would be better if I didn't talk about politics." The security detail is purportedly routine for the venue, and according to participants, Keillor did not interact with any audience members between his arrival and his lecture.[36] Supposedly, before Keillor's remarks, participants in the event had considered the visit to have been cordial and warm.[37]

In 2007, Keillor wrote a column that in part criticized "stereotypical" gay parents, who he said were "sardonic fellows with fussy hair who live in over-decorated apartments with a striped sofa and a small weird dog and who worship campy performers."[38] In response to the strong reactions of many readers, Keillor said

I live in a small world -- the world of entertainment, musicians, writers -- in which gayness is as common as having brown eyes .... And in that small world, we talk openly and we kid each other a lot. But in the larger world, gayness is controversial ... and so gay people feel besieged to some degree and rightly so .... My column spoke as we would speak in my small world, and it was read by people in the larger world and thus the misunderstanding. And for that, I am sorry. Gay people who set out to be parents can be just as good parents as anybody else, and they know that, and so do I. [39]

In 2008, Keillor created a controversy in St. Paul when he filed a lawsuit against his neighbors' plans to build an addition on their home, citing his need for "light and air" and a view of "open space and beyond". Keillor's home is significantly larger than others in his neighborhood and would still be significantly larger than his neighbors' with its planned addition.[40] Keillor came to an undisclosed settlement with his neighbors shortly after the story became public.[41]

Voiceover work

Due to his distinctive North Central accent, Keillor is often used as a voiceover actor. Some notable appearances include:

  • Voiceover artist for Honda UK's "the Power of Dreams" campaign. The campaign's most memorable advertisement is the 2003 Honda Accord commercial Cog, which features a Heath Robinson contraption (Rube Goldberg Machine for those in the USA) made entirely of car parts. The commercial ends with Keillor asking, "Isn't it nice when things just work?"[42] Since then, Keillor has voiced the tagline for most if not all Honda UK advertisements, and even sang the voiceover in the 2004 Honda Diesel commercial "Grrr".[43] His most recent ad was a reworking of an existing commercial with digitally added England flags to tie in with the World Cup. Keillor's tagline was "Come on, England, keep the dream alive."
  • Voice of the Norse god Odin in an episode of the Disney animated series Hercules.
  • Voice of Walt Whitman and other historical figures in Ken Burns's documentary series The Civil War and Baseball.

Cultural references

His style, particularly his speaking voice, is often the subject of parody. The Simpsons parodied Keillor in an episode in which Homer is shown watching a Keillor-like monologist on television; Homer hit the set exclaiming "Stupid TV! Be more funny!".[44]

One Boston radio critic likens Keillor and his "down comforter voice" to "a hypnotist intoning, 'You are getting sleepy now'," while noting that Keillor does play to listeners' intelligence.[45] Keillor rarely reads his monologue from a script.

One of the audio bumpers which begins each hour of Dennis Miller's radio talk show features a short clip of Keillor introducing a broadcast of APHC, followed immediately by snoring.

In the bonus DVD material for the album Venue Songs by band They Might Be Giants, John Hodgman delivers a fictitious newscast in which he explains that "The Artist Formerly Known as Public Radio Host Garrison Keillor" and his "legacy of Midwestern pledge-drive funk" inspired the band's first "venue song."[46]

Pennsylvanian singer-songwriter Tom Flannery wrote a song in 2003 entitled "I Want a Job Like Garrison Keillor's."[47]

The Homestar Runner cartoon "Date Nite" features an Easter egg found by clicking on the period in "end." at the end of the cartoon. In it, a Public Radio wrestling event is advertised in which Keillor "...wrestles his own soothing voice in a steel cage." [48]


Keillor's work in print includes:

Lake Wobegon


Contributions to The New Yorker

Title Department Volume/Part Date Page(s) Subject(s)
Notes and Comment The Talk of the Town 60/47 7 January 1985 17-18 A friend's visit to San Francisco and Stinson Beach, California.

See also


  1. ^ Wadler, Joyce (June 7, 2006). "Where all the rooms are above average / Garrison Keillor's home not a little house on the prairie". The San Francisco Chronicle. 
  2. ^ Lands' End
  3. ^ Salon Books | Hot sex with the ex
  4. ^ Powers, John (August 10, 2008). "Plenty of niceness, and no ice, for a Grand Old Party". The Boston Globe. 
  5. ^ Carolyn Arends, "From the Radio to the Big Screen", Christianity Today, June 5, 2006.
  6. ^
  7. ^
  8. ^ "A Prairie Home Companion from American Public Media". American Public Media. 1998-01-02. Retrieved 2010-12-24. 
  9. ^ Garrison Keillor
  10. ^ Steven Keillor
  11. ^ Walsh, Paul (2009-09-09). Minor stroke puts Keillor in hospital. Star Tribune. Retrieved 2009-09-09. 
  12. ^ Keillor, Garrison (2004). Homegrown Democrat. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 39–40, 84. ISBN 0-14-303768-4. 
  13. ^ Keillor, Garrison (2004). Homegrown Democrat. New York: Penguin Books. pp. 84. ISBN 0-14-303768-4. 
  14. ^ Lee, J. Y. Garrison Keillor: A Voice of America, pages 29–30. University Press of Mississippi, 1991.
  15. ^ a b c Garrison Keillor, page 30. University Press of Mississippi, 1991.
  16. ^ "Keillor to Quit Daily Show, Others Leave KSJN, Minneapolis Tribune, 1973-08-24, 14B.
  17. ^
  18. ^ Keillor, Garrison; Richard Olsenius (photographs) (2001). In Search of Lake Wobegon. New York: Viking Studio. pp. 12–13. ISBN 978-0-670-03037-6. 
  19. ^
  20. ^ "Oregon Bach Festival pressroom". Retrieved 2009-08-17. 
  21. ^ "Garrison Keillor, 'Prairie Home Companion' Host, to Retire From Radio". Retrieved 2011-03-30. 
  22. ^ The Writer's Almanac with Garrison Keillor | Analysis of Baseball by May Swenson
  23. ^
  24. ^
  25. ^ "The Old Scout" at Tribune Media Services
  26. ^ Common Good Books, G. Keillor, Prop."
  27. ^ Summit-University
  28. ^
  29. ^ a b c d "Something for Everyone". School of the Arts: University of North Carolina. Retrieved April 26, 2011. 
  30. ^
  31. ^ Welcome to Minnesota - Minnesota Historical Markers on
  32. ^ The Moth - Annual Moth Ball
  33. ^ San Jose State University, Press Release, "Garrison Keillor to Receive 2007 John Steinbeck Award," 2007 Sept. 10,
  34. ^ Sean Higgins on Garrison Keillor & Internet on National Review Online
  35. ^ The United Methodist Portal
  36. ^ Dallas Morning News | News for Dallas, Texas | Columnist Jacquielynn Floyd | Dallas-Fort Worth News[dead link]
  37. ^ | Arts/Entertainment News and Events | Dallas-Fort Worth | The Dallas Morning News | Books[dead link]
  38. ^ Family? Gender? Cowboys? I’ll tell you all about it, by Garrison Keillor - Chicago Tribune
  39. ^
  40. ^ Katherine Kersten » Blog Archive » Mr. Keillor’s Unneighborly Ways
  41. ^ Mediation ends Keillor's feud with neighbor
  42. ^
  43. ^ youtube Grr Commercial
  44. ^
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^ "I Want a Job Like Garrison Keillor" at
  48. ^ "Date Nite"

External links

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Look at other dictionaries:

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  • Lake Wobegon — is a fictional town in the U.S. state of Minnesota, said to have been the boyhood home of Garrison Keillor, who reports the News from Lake Wobegon on the radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Lake Wobegon is characterized as the town where all the …   Wikipedia

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