Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Farewell to A Prairie Home Companion

No, the popular Minnesota radio show isn't going off the air. I just can't listen to it anymore. Garrison Keillor's a great storyteller, but I can't listen to skit after skit and monologue after monologue about shy people who won't stand up for themselves against emotionally manipulative and abusive people.

This isn't the first time this has happened to me. I used to love reading Peanuts as a kid, when my life seemed a lot like Charlie Brown's. But once things started getting better for me, and especially once I finally got a girlfriend, I lost patience with his always being the loser and never having the confidence to talk to that little red-haired girl. I especially lost patience with him not even noticing that maybe Peppermint Patty had a crush on him, and liked him just the way he was.

Same thing with Doonesbury. I identified with poor luckless Mike when the strip first appeared in the early 70s, but as my life got better, and I developed more self-confidence (and a few much-needed social skills), I lost patience with him too, and stopped reading it.

Which brings us back to Garrison Keillor and the people of Lake Wobegon MN. I've listened to the show on-and-off ever since I was first introduced to it by a friend from Wisconsin 27 years ago. It was on-and-off because I was almost never in one place for the two hours the show was on the air on Saturday afternoons. So I'd catch a bit of the show here and there, but rarely did I ever get to hear an entire show in one sitting. As a result, my exposure to people who wouldn't or couldn't stand up for themselves was limited.

The Internet and the iPod changed all that. When the APHC website started streaming both the current week's shows and those from its archives, it meant that I could put shows on my iPod and listen to them whenever I was in the car - and I spent a lot of time in the car. Not to worry, I wasn't wearing headphones, the iPod plugs into the car's stereo system. This regular listening, 20 minutes here, 10 minutes there, every day, led to my overdose of shy, spineless, and stupid people.

You see, as with Charlie Brown and Mike Doonesbury, I had once been one of those people. But I eventually learned to stand up for myself, and it made me crazy that there was no "character development" in Lake Wobegon, and that they all pretty much remained doormats. Hey, if I could learn to do this, so could they!

The most annoying regular character on the show was Duane from the skits about his telephone conversations with his manipulative mother. This Minnesota mother made the classic Jewish stereotype seem like a rank amateur. Even my wife found listening to these segments painful, and suggested that we just fast-forward through that part of the show.

I knew that I had to quit, but I didn't know how. Until I got behind.

Yes, getting behind in my listening is what made it easy to quit. We had been so busy, and had been listening to so many other things in the car, that I was a good month or two behind in listening to APHC. And being that far behind made it really easy, because now it was no longer a matter of deciding to when to quit listening, but rather, of deciding whether or not to start again.

I haven't listened to APHC since around Christmas, and I'm OK with that. If there's ever a live performance nearby, like Buffalo or Bethlehem, I might try to get tickets. Listening to a show every now and then is something I could probably handle. But my days of regular listening are over. I just can't take it anymore.

In the meantime, I'm gonna try listening to podcasts of Stuart McLean's monologues from the CBC's Vinyl Cafe.

If I can make it through his Canadian accent.

1 comment:

  1. Keith:

    I was blogging for a while, I should probably start doing it again. You may have inspired me to do it!

    I understand about "comic fatigue," I'm tired of BC, and, in another genre altogether, I quit watching "ER" because it wore me out.

    I'd like to suggest some comic strips to replace the ones that you gave up. "Pearls before Swine" is great. It parodies itself, and sometimes does tributes to other strips. Also, despite the fact that it is lost from the Post Standard, I have always loved "Rose is Rose." I read them both on-line.

    Hey, we Mac people have to stick together.