Even The Atheists Are Lutheran

An Evening With Garrison Keillor
October 21, 2016, Yardley Hall, Johnson County Community College, Overland Park, Kansas

Garrison Keillor, born Gary Edward Keillor in central Minnesota, can hold an audience in the palm of his hand for two hours with no break. Nary a breath between, Keillor goes from topic to topic---some commonplace, some unique, some medical---effortlessly. In early 2016, having retired from his radio show on NPR of 30-plus years, “A Prairie Home Companion,” Keillor is now on tour by himself---no musicians, no sound effects, just him. A man of over seventy years, wearing a white suit, red tie and red shoes. A trademark to single out the performer.

Many in the 1200 seat auditorium thought Keillor was traveling with his band, and would play banjo or guitar with them, sing, tell jokes, and tales of life in Lake Wobegon (supposedly close to Saint Cloud, Minn. in Stearns County.) However, the title of this tour, “An Evening With...” should have been a clue that Keillor was traveling alone and had center stage all 120 minutes of the show.

Music? Provided by the audience, 10 minutes after the show began and 10 minutes before it ended. Keillor would walk through the audience and start singing familiar songs such as “My Country, ‘Tis Of Thee,” or “Home On The Range” (for Kansas), or “Battle Hymn Of The Republic” or “Swing Low, Sweet Chariot.” This resulted in a relaxed audience and clearly let everyone know who knew the lyrics (over age 50) and who just hummed along (under age 50).

The man continued for two hours without a break. Alternating sitting on a stool, center stage, or walking to and fro in front of the stool. He could segue from any subject into any other subject without hesitation including life in Lake Wobegon, or politics, jokes, his parents and extended family, imitation of Bob Dylan with a notation for Dylan to hurry up and pick up that Peace Award. Keillor could toss remarks at any topic, but his best for the evening were for religion and the differences between Lutherans, Baptists, Catholics and Atheists (being a Lutheran was prevalent in Lake Wobegon) "Even the Atheists were Lutheran.” Audiences members near me either sat stoically through the performance or laughed so hard they went through one handkerchief after another.

Personally, I thought his best section was describing how being an usher at a church service was akin to playing a baseball game, as in trying to get the right seat, you had to go around the plate to find one. I could have done without his medical information that threatened to raise the PG-plus rating toward PG 13 and beyond.

Just when you thought he had run out of material, he would segue into something else and away we would go again. I had the feeling that, even at 120 minutes, Keillor was just getting warmed up. His voice didn't waver. Who knows, sometime in the future, someone will discover there had been an error in making Minnesota road maps and that Lake Wogegon was there after all, the dot marking the town had been misplaced by an errant printer who sneezed at that moment, his pen wavered, and the town was lost for a bit. There I go, off on a tangent........thanks, Garrison.


For a review of Garrison Keillor’s movie, “A Prairie Home Companion” starring Meryl Streep see the following link:


Copyright 2016 Marie Asner