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Keillor enters final year on Prairie Home Companion

Garrison Keillor will retire as host of "A Prairie Home Companion" next summer. (Photo Credit: Claudia Danielson)

By Jeff Baenen/Associated Press
July 20, 2015
ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) — Garrison Keillor, creator and longtime host of the popular A Prairie Home Companion radio show, says he means it this time: He's retiring.
In an interview in late July, Keillor said he plans to step down as host after the 2015-16 season, following four decades of entertaining listeners with his baritone voice and folksy comedy sketches about Lake Wobegon, his mythical Minnesota hometown "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, and all the children are above average."
The show is heard by 4 million listeners nationwide on nearly 700 public radio stations each week. KPR listeners can hear A Prairie Home Companion Saturdays from 5 to 7 p.m. and again Sunday morning from 10 a.m. to noon.
Keillor also takes summer bus tours for live shows, and his 30-city "America the Beautiful" cross-country tour, billed as his farewell tour, began in late July. It comes to Kansas City’s Starlight Theater on Aug. 22. You can purchase tickets to the show here.
"I have a lot of other things that I want to do. I mean, nobody retires anymore. Writers never retire. But this is my last season. This tour this summer is the farewell tour," the 72-year-old Keillor said, laughing and joking as he sat in his book-lined office in St. Paul wearing his signature red socks.
Chris Thile will take over the hosting duties on APHC next year. (Photo Credit: 
Keillor said he tapped musician Chris Thile of the bands Punch Brothers and Nickel Creek to succeed him full time as host in September 2016, following guest-hosting spots. He said Thile — a mandolin whiz — will help return Prairie Home to its roots as a music show.
Thile, now 34, was 15 when he made his first appearance on the show in 1996. In a statement, Thile said he and Keillor "have lengthily discussed the future of the show with me as host and agree that we should give it a go. There are, of course, plenty of details to iron out, but I'm very excited!"
Keillor will end his tenure as host with performances at some of his favorite outdoor venues, including Wolf Trap near Washington, D.C., Ravinia near Chicago and Tanglewood in Massachusetts, according to A Prairie Home Companion spokesman David O'Neill. The location of Keillor's final show as host, in July 2016, has not been determined yet, O'Neill said.
The Berkshire (Massachusetts) Eagle first reported last month on Keillor's plans to "transition" out of the show. But given Keillor's history — he talked about retiring when he turned 70 in 2013 — many media outlets were cautious. The Minneapolis Star Tribune noted Keillor had "announced an upcoming retirement so many times that he could be called the Brett Favre of broadcast radio."
But he insisted that his decision was solid. He said he plans to stay on as executive producer, but only "an admirer" and "a gray eminence" of the on-air show, which he said will keep its Midwestern focus.
"I'm perfectly willing to do whatever needs to be done. I can certainly come on the show as a guest, you know, I can do the warm-up. I can stand in the wings and wind up microphone cord," Keillor said.
Keillor said that means retiring his weekly monologue "News from Lake Wobegon," a homey recounting of the doings of Norwegian bachelor farmers and other Lake Wobegon residents, along with his sketches about hard-boiled detective Guy Noir and hapless modern-day cowboys Dusty and Lefty.
As for retirement, Keillor has a few plans, including traveling.
"I've been everywhere, and I've seen very little. I've seen a lot of hotels, a lot of airports, I've seen the backseats of cabs and I've seen back stages of theaters," he said. "I go to all these wonderful places and I never walk around and I never see things. Because I'm working."
Keillor also said he would like to make another movie. A movie version of A Prairie Home Companion hit theaters in 2006 to critical acclaim and modest box-office success. Keillor said he has finished writing a Lake Wobegon screenplay, about a young man who returns for his father's funeral and reconnects with a high school girlfriend.
"It's got a funeral, it's got a big Fourth of July parade, and it's got, you know, two people taking each other's clothes off," he said. "Everything we look for in a movie."

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