Four Things Every American Should Know About A Prairie Home Companion
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For 42 years, Anoka native Garrison Keillor captivated audiences with comedic and charming tales of the fictional small town of Lake Wobegon, Minnesota via his Minnesota Public Radio show A Prairie Home Companion. Every Saturday at 5:00 PM the show was broadcast live from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul and the previous day’s program was repeated each Sunday at 11:00 AM. Last summer—to the dismay of hundreds of Minnesotans—Keillor retired, passing the reins of the program on to musician Chris Thile. Many aspects of Keillor’s program, including his famous skits and routines, have become classics of comedy. There are certainly a few parts of the show that every Minnesotan ought to be acquainted with.
Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie
Keillor begins this bit with a long monologue, narrating in graphic detail the story of someone undergoing a terrible experience. In one episode he introduces a seasick student facing numerous, increasingly absurd, obstacles. Once it seems that all hope is lost, the narrative suddenly shifts. Keillor proclaims, “Wouldn’t this be a good time for a piece of rhubarb pie? Nothing gets the taste of shame and humiliation out of your mouth like a piece of Beebopareebop Rhubarb Pie.” From there Keillor begins to sing the jingle for the made-up brand: “Momma’s little baby loves rhubarb, rhubarb, beebopareebop, rhubarb pie.”
The Sound Effects
Aside from Keillor, certainly the most memorable cast member of A Prairie Home Companion is longtime sound effects coordinator and comedian, Fred Newman. For years Newman provided the background for most of Keillor’s sketches. Using his voice and limited props, Newman performed everything from a creaking door to a bottle of ketchup to Donald Trump. There’s no doubt that Newman has been both a crucial part of the show and a staple of Minnesota’s culture. Luckily for Minnesotans, he will continue in this capacity under Thile.
“The News from Lake Wobegon” is most definitely Keillor’s most famous act. Over the decades listeners grew to know and love the characters and happenings of the quaint, fictional town. Keillor’s sarcastic spin on traditional Midwestern values offered something unique that many Minnesotans could relate to. That, of course, in addition to a good laugh. Keillor would famously closed the program with the lines, “And that’s the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good looking, and the children are above average.”
Along with Keillor’s famous comedy, A Prairie Home Companion also served to showcase folk and bluegrass music. Keillor is a skilled musician and singer and would often perform with famous artists on his show. For many listeners, the music was the highlight of the broadcast.
There’s no doubt that Keiller will be missed by many Minnesotans, and to those nostalgic for the Keillor days, do not fret! A Prairie Home Companion’s website now offers an archive of Keillor’s broadcasts dating back to 1985, each providing memorable jokes and anecdotes suited for any Minnesotan.