A Prairie Home Companion

From Academic Kids

A Prairie Home Companion is a live radio variety show created and hosted by Garrison Keillor. The show usually runs two hours on Saturday afternoon from 5 to 7 PM Central Time, and originates from the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota. It is produced by Prairie Home Productions and distributed by American Public Media, and is most often heard on National Public Radio member stations in the United States. The show has a long history, existing in a similar form as far back as 1974, and borrowing the name from a radio program in existence in 1969.



The earliest radio program to have this name bears little resemblance to what is currently heard on Saturday evenings. A Prairie Home Companion was originally a morning show running from 6 to 9 AM on Minnesota Public Radio. The show's name came from the Prairie Home Cemetery in Moorhead, Minnesota.

After researching the Grand Ole Opry for an article, Keillor became interested in doing a variety show on the radio. On July 6th, 1974, the first live broadcast of A Prairie Home Companion took place. That show was broadcast from St. Paul in the Janet Wallace Auditorium of Macalester College. The turnout? Twelve audience members, mostly children.

In 1978, the show moved into the World Theater in St. Paul. This is the same location that the program uses today, as the World was renovated and renamed to the Fitzgerald Theater.

The show went off the air in 1987, and Keillor spent some time abroad in the next two years. He returned to radio in 1989 with The American Radio Company. In 1993, the show moved to Minnesota and was renamed to A Prairie Home Companion. While most of the episodes originate from St. Paul, the show often travels to other cities around the U.S. and world to do the weekly broadcast.

The show was distributed by Minnesota Public Radio in association with Public Radio International until July 2004, at which time MPR became the distributor through its American Public Media unit.


Each show opens with the Spencer Williams composition "Tishomingo Blues" as the theme song, but with lyrics written for especially for A Prairie Home Companion. It features a weekly story-telling monologue from Keillor, claiming to be a report from Keillor's fictitious hometown of Lake Wobegon ("The little town that time forgot and the decades cannot improve" and "where the women are strong, the men are good looking, and all the children are above average").

The show is "sponsored" by the fictitious product "Powdermilk Biscuits" (Slogan: "Buy them ready-made in the big blue box with the picture of the biscuit on the cover, or in the brown bag with the dark stains that indicate freshness"). Powdermilk Biscuits has its own theme song, sung by Keillor every week. Other original sponsors included Ralph's Pretty Good Grocery, the Sidetrack Tap, Jack's Auto Repair, Jack's Warm Car Service, and Bertha's Kitty Boutique. An occasional sponsor is Monback Moving & Storage (a mover is heard directing a moving truck; a backup alarm can be heard beeping: "Monback... Monback... [crunch] That's good.")

Other recurring bits on the show include fictional commercials, including those for "The Catchup Advisory Board" (with a spelling that is a compromise between catsup and ketchup), the American Duct Tape Council, and the Fearmonger's Shoppe ("For all your phobia needs").

Radio comedy skits featuring Keillor and the ensemble are performed, such as the satirical "Guy Noir, Private Eye", which pokes fun at gumshoe detective films. "Guy Noir"'s popularity is such that the first few notes of the theme, or the first lines of the announcer intro ("A dark night in a city that knows how to keep its secrets...") often draw applause and cheers from the theatre audience.

Also, greetings from members of the audience (which are frequently humorous) to friends and family at home are read each week just after intermission.

Music is a big feature of the program; it is a significant outlet for American folk music of many genres. While much of the show is directed toward radio comedy, a portion of the show is usually devoted to some more sentimental and sometimes dark stories put together by Keillor and others.


In addition to Garrison Keillor, several other performers frequently appear on A Prairie Home Companion:

Broadcast information

The show is distributed by Minnesota Public Radio's distribution arm, American Public Media, to NPR and other outlets and can be heard on more than 511 public radio stations in the United States. Approximately 3.9 million U.S. listeners tune in each week. The program is also carried around the world by the American Armed Forces Radio Network as well as America One.

New Zealand's National Radio carries it from time to time.

An alternative edition of the show is broadcast in the UK by BBC 7 and in Ireland by RTÉ under the name Garrison Keillor's Radio Show.

Film version

Due for release in 2006, a film version of the radio show written by and starring Keillor is currently in pre-production and set to begin filming in July 2005. It will also star (as of yet) Kevin Kline, John C. Reilly, Meryl Streep, Lindsay Lohan, Lily Tomlin, Maya Rudolph, and Woody Harrelson. Robert Altman is set to direct the film, which will be a fictional representation of behind-the-scenes activities on the show. (Notably, Altman was parodied in the June 4, 2005 Guy Noir skit on the program in which he was directing a film "People Standing Around Talking and Using Hand Gestures" [1] (http://prairiehome.publicradio.org/programs/2005/06/04/scripts/noir.shtml).)

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