Garrison Keillor came to town and I blithely paid my money and trotted off to see his one-man live show. If you’re used to his radio show, you’ll have to close your eyes during the stage performance, however. He has this mannerism of throwing his hair back with his right hand. I wanted to give him some hair clips during intermission–except there wasn’t an intermission during the stage performance. No kidding! The man kept us riveted with a two-hour non-stop performance!
The audiences in mid-Missouri (where I attended the performance) tend to be a little grateful when somebody famous notices us enough to drop by. Predictably, at the end of the performance the entire audience leaped to its feet for a standing ovation. I felt like a curmudgeon, sitting there in my chair. It gets very dark when everybody around you is standing up absorbing the light. But by the end of his two-hour monologue–with no intermssion, mind you–I felt kind of sad. I couldn’t clap and I certainly couldn’t stand and clap.
It’s taken me a little while to figure out why, exactly, because whenever I catch even part of his radio show I’m amused. There’s that voice of his, that amber honey baritone, that intimate “I know you and you know me” voice. I want to take that voice and apply it like a thick cream all over me. When he sings I think I know his soul, which makes me feel so delectably connected. I’m impressed with the poetry he recites. I mean, who does that? And gets away with it? The luxury of falling into words and floating inside them is rare.
The man has a most prodigious memory, he’s well-read, and I respect all that. His drollery makes me smile. Always. Quite often I even laugh. As we all agree, laughing makes us feel so good that we’re prepared to pay all kinds of money to get to do it.
I suppose every culture gets the stories it deserves. That’s my point. I’m sad that Keillor’s stories are what our culture deserves. They show us that every good person is mostly a lot bad, and every bad person is mostly a lot good, and all religion is a humbug. Basically we’re all buffoons in Keillor’s view of the world. I can take that in little doses over the radio. After all, he has a back-up band, guest artists, and several regulars to help entertain us. There’s all kinds of variety in the type of comedy he creates.
Heard over the radio, you kind of forget that it’s all really aimed to show you how silly you are, taking up space on this planet as you do. You kind of set aside the fact that all the foolish talk he makes fun of, all those moronic silences used to punish people who are relieved to have no engagement, are really a description of us – you – me – dear listener.
I felt bad at the end of the performance because I want to feel noble. Just a little bit of nobility here and there will hold me on course. Just a hint that I might have an ounce of nobility flowing through my veins will carry me for weeks. I’m good with hope. Delayed gratification is a life-style I was raised to admire. Hold a carrot in front of me and I’ll walk ten-thousand miles!
But to be shown what an unmitigated buffoon I am for two hours makes me feel bad. It just might be true, and then where am I?