Monday, August 20, 2007

He’s No Comedian

Garrison Keillor makes me laugh and cry – at the same time!
by Charlie Leck

He supposed to be a comedian. I think! Isn’t he? What is Garrison Keillor? The easy answer is that he is a brilliant artist. Both I and my wife love his Saturday evening show. Some immense peace comes over us when we listen to it. Turn off the TV and take the phone off the hook. Turn on the FM and increase the volume. Spread a heap of ketchup on a few slices of bread and let’s have a couple hours of delight and sanity. That’s the Prairie Home Companion Show – a Minnesota institution and one of the most successful entertainment enterprises on the face of the earth.

It took a “foreigner” to alert me to the wonder of the show. Decades ago a fellow in upper New York state – up near Rochester – told me he rarely missed sitting by the radio on a Saturday evening to listen to the Keillor’s old time radio show. I went home to Minnesota and made a habit of listening. It’s a highly anticipated part of each and every week.

Now Keillor is writing regularly in the Sunday morning opinion section of my local paper. For years my first move with the Sunday paper was toward the sports section. No longer! I turn now to the Opinion Exchange, to read Keillor’s weekly column. I probably like it because he so right down the line with what I think.

You want to know something? He makes more sense than Friedman, or Kristof, or Will, or Krugman… or any of the so called brilliant observers of current events. Keillor is a prophet and speaks with a tongue that stings and he occasionally shows his teeth, too. It tells America what it’s really like to be selfish and unfair and uncaring.

A few years ago I read Keillor’s little book, Homegrown Democrat. It was his attempt to explain what a Democrat is. It was a remarkable book – one of the finest I’ve ever read. It said lots of things the right-wing, evangelical portion of the Republican Party didn’t like (or wouldn’t like if they’d read the book).

This week, in his opinion column, Keillor wrote about Karl Rove, comparing him to the camp counselor who is always telling the campers how wonderful everything is out in the wild. Of course, every camper knew it was crappy and miserable, and what they really needed was a flush toilet and a hot shower. Rove kept trying to tell us how wonderful everything was in Iraq; and how many friends we really had around the world; and how good the economy was; and how great the American health care delivery system was; and how global warming is a farce. In his column, Keillor says goodbye to Rove and “good riddance” too.

Every nation needs a real prophet. Some thought Ralph Nader would play the role, but he just got whiny and self-righteous. Keillor is perfect. He’s got that sonorous voice (and you can even hear it in his writing) and piercing glare. He says what’s on his mind and he says it with extraordinary clarity. He points at evil and calls it what it is and doesn’t sugar-coat it in political vagueness.

If Keillor has a weakness it is that he’s too clever and too witty and a lot of those serious bastards with their pinched noses and pursed lips won’t get him. Garrison Keillor is as Minnesotan as they come. He believes in the possibility that no one has to be poor – that no one should be forgotten by society – that all people deserve high quality health care –and that going to war is the most serious decision a politician can make and that it should seldom be made.

Lake Wobegon, that curiously wonderful town just around the corner from here, has a strange affect on people. Karl Rove should have gotten to know the place and its people. Rove should have been raised on Powder Milk Biscuits and healthy doses of ketchup.

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