‘Chattanooga’ and ‘Arugula’ won’t make a limerick
These and other pithy thoughts spring from Garrison Keillor, whose ‘Prairie Home Love & Comedy Tour’ stops Saturday at the Tivoli
For 42 years, Garrison Keillor hosted the popular radio variety show “A Prairie Home Companion.”
Even though he retired his weekly updates last year, Keillor hasn’t left Lake Wobegon permanently. He’s currently on his “Prairie Home Love & Comedy Tour” — twoplus hours of stories, love duets, Guy Noir, cowboys, poetic outbursts and his famous Singing Intermission, in which “the able- bodied stand and sing around the campfire.”
Keillor’s tour stops at the Tivoli Theatre on Saturday night, Sept. 9. He’ll be joined by Heather Masse, sound- effects genius Fred Newman, Richard Dworsky and the Road Hounds.
The 75- year- old was recently interviewed by Michael Edward Miller, WUTC radio host of “Around and About Chattanooga.” Following are excerpts from that interview in which Keillor previewed his show at the Tivoli, reprinted with permission from UTC.
Miller: So you’re coming to Chattanooga with the live show. You’ve retired from actually hosting the show on t he radio, but you’ve been keeping busy with writing screenplays, a memoir. Why do you want to tour as well?
Keillor: I ’ ve been writing now for about a year since the last Prairie Home show at the Hollywood Bowl, and it’s what I’ve wanted to do since I was a child, sitting at a desk in dim light and with a laptop, working on a screenplay and a memoir, a weekly column and so forth. But you sit alone and you write and rewrite and you start to miss standing on a stage in front of a crowd … I’m going to do the news from Lake Wobegon and Fred Newman, our sound- effects man, will be there, so we’ll do the lives of the cowboys, Dusty and Lefty, and do some kind of surrealistic improv.
Rich Dworksy is at the piano, so we’ll do a bunch of things and we will also walk into the audience. The audience and I will sing “My Country ‘Tis of Thee” and “Battle Hymn of t he Republic” and “Shenandoah” and “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot” and a bunch of other songs that we all know.
Miller: It seems like your live show, when you’re not worrying about being broadcast and don’t have to worry about FCC regulations, can be a bit more uninhibited than the radio show was.
Keillor: I grew up with restrictions that were much more stringent than the FCC’s, so I don’t really need the FCC to tell me what not to say. I have been not saying it since I was a child. But there is a freedom of improvisation, you’re right, and I hope the audience enjoys it. But whether they do or not, I really enjoy it. We didn’t do that much of it on the radio show because you know, there are other people involved and you don’t want to throw them off their stride.
Miller: I’m not sure how long ago it was, but I saw you once when you were here live and you led the audience in singing “The Chattanooga Choo- Choo.”
Keillor: Well, I know a little bit of “The Chattanooga Choo-Choo,” but not as much as I should. I should book up on that before I come. Is that still popular in Chattanooga?
Miller: I believe (the song) turned 75 … the 75th anniversary of it becoming the world’s first gold record.
Keillor: I’m 75 myself so I admire that. I once tried to write a limerick on Chattanooga, and it’s not the easiest name to rhyme. I tried to work in arugula and the ooga, ooga of the Model T Ford horn, and it was not a great limerick. I should try this again.