There is an odd part after the third paragraph I can't get rid of. It's rather annoying, perhaps like those he is talking about.
I've been tirelessly scouring message boards and blogs for nearly an hour, and it's clear that for many conservatives, "APHC"—Garrison Keillor's 32-year-old musical variety show heard on public radio—is pretty much unbearable.
"Garrison Keillor" rants one poster, "perfectly evokes a sort of left-leaning snob-appeal that is also reflected in his demographic: people who live in rich, quaint, walkable streetcar suburbs and sneer at the folks who live in the more affordable newer towns a little far out . . . . Or people who contribute occasional op/eds to their local alternative newsweekly, writing them on a 1937 Remington typewriter. Who drive Volkswagen Passats out to their ocean/lakeside cottage retreat, where they go to unwind, drink Riesling and listen to scratchy mono recordings of Caruso or Callas."
With the arrival of Robert Altman's new film "A Prairie Home Companion," Keillor and "APHC" have the opportunity to be hated by a much wider audience. The film, which stars, among others, left-wing bomb-thrower Lindsay Lohan, is a backstage fable about a local musical variety show, like Keillor's, being shut down by an evil corporate radio conglomerate based in Texas that is, for legal reasons, not called Clear Channel.
As a fan of "APHC" since 1983, I'm delighted to think that millions of new fans might discover the show, which, with its small-town homilies, family-friendly humor and rootsy music, plays like a huge buffered analgesic for America's throbbing pop culture headache. And yet, I'm a little leery of the sudden prominence. It's long been safely hidden away from right-wingers where they would never find it—public radio. But now I'm afraid the sweet old show is about to be keelhauled by partisan politics. I dread the night Keillor appears on "Hannity & Colmes."
HANNITY: Mr. Keillor, you're a rich man. Why should conservative Americans' tax dollars go to support your liberal program on National Public Radio, which openly mocks our commander in chief . . . .
KEILLOR: You know, I had an uncle back in Lake Wobegon . . . .
HANNITY: Die, liberal, die!!
Because the movie is set behind the scenes of the show, I thought it might be useful to go backstage during the June 2 taping at the Hollywood Bowl to see the real thing. From the wings I could see the audience settling into their high-priced box seats and, sure enough, they were a bunch of cheese-eating hybrid drivers, all right. Beards and Birkenstocks, trim waists and natural fibers. Every one of them looked like they belonged on the Whole Foods board of directors.
Keillor could not look more different: the Hitler haircut, the catfish mouth, the not-quite-plumb schoolboy glasses. His face looks like it was assembled from used tea bags. Also, I think a man his age (63) and in his position should definitely own pants that reach his ankles.
My point is, if right-wingers abhor trendiness, well, Keillor's their man.
When the show began, I noticed an odd thing. None of the humor—none of it—came at the expense of "the Other," which is to say, Republicans, Christian conservatives, Bill O'Reilly. It was, actually, directed at the foibles of Hollywood liberals, with skits lampooning mood stabilizers and eating disorders (try "Xanax Salad Sprinkles"), permissive parents and age discrimination in the film business: "Barb, it's not too late. There are plenty of interesting roles for older women with difficult hair."
And then we all sang "America the Beautiful"—three verses, no less—"The Red River Valley" and "That Silver Haired Daddy of Mine," a song made popular by that well-known subversive Gene Autry.
When the movie "Fargo" came out, Rush Limbaugh accused the filmmakers of mocking the boy-howdy Minnesotans. He couldn't have been more wrong (actually, he could, and later on proved it). "Fargo" honored the Minnesotans for their wit, their courage under fire, their laconic grace. I think something of the same misunderstanding stalks "APHC."
It's odd that an entertainment so wholesome and traditional, so mild, could antagonize anyone. I suppose to people used to being divided, everything looks divisive. The brilliance of "APHC" is that it's nostalgic for a golden era of tolerance that never was.
It is possible for us to laugh at ourselves, together, without fear. I'm as hard-core an atheist as you're likely to find this side of Finland, and yet I love it when Keillor sings old-time gospel songs, safe in the knowledge the Jesus Brigade isn't coming after me to make sure I don't marry a man. We could ask for no better than that we all live in Lake Wobegon.