Keillor Brings Laughter, Memories to Campus

Garrison Keillor, former host of MPR's A Prairie Home Companion, visited Gustavus on April 26 during his statewide Gratitude Tour.
Posted on April 27th, 2017 by

At promptly 6:58 p.m. on Wednesday, April 26, Garrison Keillor’s familiar baritone filled the prairie cathedral that sits at the heart of the Gustavus Adolphus College campus.

For the next two hours, he regaled the sold-out Christ Chapel crowd of 1,100 with songs, stories, poems, and memories from his 48-year career with Minnesota Public Radio. The one-man performance was part of Keillor’s Gratitude Tour, which has him traveling across the North Star State to perform at five colleges and universities in conjunction with Minnesota Public Radio’s 50th anniversary celebration.

Keillor leads the audience in song.

“I’m not done yet,” the iconic 74-year-old radio host assured the crowd. “But at my age, you see how the mistakes you’ve made have led you to things you’re grateful for now.”

Dressed in his signature light suit, red sneakers, and red tie, he paced back and forth across Christ Chapel’s sanctuary and up and down its center aisle as he spoke of his life with poignant, poetic, and humorous detail.

He told of his Minnesota childhood as a strict Fundamentalist and visits to his grandmother’s farm. He told of his dangerous lack of aptitude in high school shop class, which resulted in his placement in a speech course, where he credits a limerick that he wrote as the catalyst for his life as a writer. He told of being an English major in college, where he and his classmates wrote bad poetry and took themselves too seriously but came through on the other side relatively unscathed.

Then, he spoke of the early days at MPR and the magic of radio, of his commute through the pre-dawn hours to his early-morning shifts on the air. “You make a connection in the dark with people you’ll never know,” Keillor said.

The highlight of Keillor’s evening performance came during what he called “intermission” – when he strode up the center aisle of Christ Chapel, asked the audience to stand, and led them in a singalong of hymns and standards, including an emotional rendition of Silent Night.

As Keillor began to close the program with a winding story from Lake Wobegon – the audience not sure what was fact and what was fiction, and not caring much either way – he paused.

“You remember all these things,” he said. “They come back to you when you’re 74 and you feel lucky all over again.”

Then, he sang Goodnight, Irene. The Gustavus audience joined in, and as he left the microphone and shuffled away, the voices in the chapel – more than a thousand strong – carried him down the aisle and he was swallowed in a sea of applause.

Garrison Keillor’s Gratitude Tour grew out of the idea that when you reach a certain age, you realize how lucky you are and stop complaining. Complaint is a mainstay of comedy, the iconic radio host says, so he is now experimenting with a comedy of gratitude, talking about parents, teachers, lucky breaks, and dumb things that turned out smart after all.

Minnesota Public Radio® (MPR) is one of the nation’s premier public radio stations producing programming for radio, digital and live audiences and operates a 45-station radio network serving nearly all of Minnesota and parts of surrounding states. Founded in 1967 as a single classical music station in Collegeville, Minn., MPR is celebrating its 50th anniversary in 2017.


Media Contact: Director of Media Relations and Internal Communication JJ Akin



  1. Laura Wickstrom says:

    Started following Prarie Home Companion on NPR and have a collection of his tapes.We listened to those stories by a campfire with our friends in La,where we live.My husband is from Minn and a Gustie. On Easter family car trip our daughter surprised us by playing your latest recording while we travel…it was dark and we all listened! Thank you

  2. Robert J. Muldoon says:

    I remember fondly the evening that we attended a live broadcast of his program from Town Hall in Manhattan. We used to go for a ride every Saturday evening and would listen to his show on WQXR, while driving.