If a reader of this blog has never listened to the radio broadcast, A Prairie Home Companion and heard Garrison Keillor’s stories of Lake Wobegon, I urge you to remedy the situation. Keillor is part of a long and illustrious line of American humorists of the 20-21st Century that starts with Will Rogers and James Thurber and carries through to Erma Bombeck, Molly Ivins and Dave Barry.
Keillor is a master of his craft which he describes as the art of capturing the absurd. His examples: “you’re fast, you trip and fall down; you’re strong and you poke your sword in your left foot; you’re smart and you go broke.” (“Finding Lake Wobegon,” by Garrison Keillor, AARP Bulletin, May, 2014, pg. 40.)
He’s right, of course. The unexpected does makes us laugh which is why comedy lives next door to tragedy. Both depend upon the same element of surprise — that rude awakening that life isn’t under our control. Whether we laugh or cry when we slip on a banana peel depends upon where the trip takes us. But either way, we will be reminded we are human.
Keillor discovered his humanity as a young man working the 4 .m. anchor spot on Minnesota Public Radio. Having just crawled out of bed himself, he sensed his audience wouldn’t brook stories of tragedy so early in the morning. He chose humor instead, inventing a small town called Lake Woebegon where the people are good hearted, if a bit foolish, and all the children are above average. Keillor says he got his ideas from his parents, children of the Depression who worked hard, didn’t complain much and didn’t expect life to give them anything they didn’t earn, a place where a person’s word was his or her bond.
As Keillor celebrates 40 years of A Prairie Home Companion, he admits he never imagined he and his imaginary town would live so long. He chalks the results up to what he’s learned: “Comedy does give good value.” (Ibid, pg. 40.) Happily, he’s taught his listeners the same lesson.
(Courtesy of sanddollaradventures.wordpress.com)