Simple Stories

A few years ago, Bastards Inc. did a sketch show called Respect, Comfort, and Kindness. We wanted, at least initially, to create a homespun, campfire feeling. There was a sing-along of Big Rock Candy Mountain I think. The show eventually spiraled into sociopath, gun wielding sparrows and criminal robots. I think that’s also the show where the bottom half of me fell off in a Chinese restaurant — but it was rooted in a quiet story-telling convention. Maybe ironically, but it was pretty warm and fuzzy.

I think about this today because it’s Garrison Keillor’s 70th birthday.

If they don’t invite this guy on to The Office to play Dwight’s dad, I’ll lose my faith in television.

If you’re not super hip like me, you might not know that Garrison is the creator and host of A Prairie Home Companion, the most self-consciously folksy radio show in all of America. He’s the king of “middle America” story telling (literally, I think all his stories take place in Minnesota) and he always strikes an interesting balance between beautiful language,  corny-clean humor, and the insinuation of a sharper underlying intelligence.

Evelyn was an insomniac so when they say she died in her sleep, you have to question that. Probably she was sitting propped up in bed reading and heard the brush of wings and smelled the cold clean air and the angel appeared like a deer in the bedroom and she said, “Not yet. I have to finish this book.” And the angel shook his golden locks which made a skittery sound like dry seed pods and he laughed a long silent laugh and took her pale hand in his.

-Excerpt from Pontoon: A Novel of Lake Wobegon by Garrison Keillor

I started listening to A Prairie Home Companion sometime last year, or the year before, and it sucked me in despite myself. Yes, they have some horrible bits. Truly horrible. But part of me thinks that maybe that’s all part of the joke somehow, the larger game.

My hat is off to Mr. Garrison Keillor and his legacy of small, wonderful stories. They make me want to pay attention to the littler things and relish in the ordinary details of life. And the corny stuff makes me happy too.

Happy birthday, G.K.!


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