WILMINGTON — The Wilson Center at Cape Fear Community College will welcome a tour of what was one of the last remaining live variety radio broadcast shows, “Prairie Home Companion,” next spring.
Its 50th anniversary tour includes “PHC” creator Garrison Keillor — the host who retired in 2016. Keillor is a fiction and comedy writer, who has penned a book of limericks and is well-known for “The Writer’s Almanac.”
He worked as a contractor for Minnesota Public Radio for years, where “PHC” was taped in front of a live studio audience in St. Paul. At its height, the show reached more than 4 million listeners on 700-plus public radio stations.
MPR stopped distributing “PHC” in 2017 and Keillor maintained ownership rights over the name. Amid the two parting ways, Keillor was accused of inappropriate workplace behavior with a colleague, which resulted in an undisclosed settlement and signed confidentiality agreement.
Since, the writer has released “Boom Town,” a novel set in a fictitious town, Lake Wobegon, first born from “PHC.” It’s at the center of Keillor’s skit in the show, “News from Lake Wobegon” — “where all the women are beautiful, all the men are strong, and all the children are above-average.”
For more than 40 years, “PHC” was part of National Public Radio’s Saturday evening programming. It brought in the likes of guest musicians, such as Chet Atkins, Mark Knopfler, Wilco, Gillian Welch, Neko Case, and Brandi Carlile.
It also launched many of Keillor’s fictional characters, such as Guy Noir Private Eye, Duane’s Mom and Ruth Harrison Reference Librarian. All the bits will be part of the March 24 show slated to take place at 7:30 p.m. in downtown Wilmington, complete with sound effects from Fred Newman.
It will be a a two-plus-hour event, kicking off with a piece about “PHC”‘s beginnings in Minnesota and it will include Keillor’s standup routine musing about being 80.
One of the quirks of “PHC” comes in the live read advertisements, which for Wilmington’s show include an extended commercial for the faux Powdermilk Biscuits on the subject: Cheerfulness Is a Choice. There also will be a word from the American Duct Tape Council, Real Hot Coffee, Guy’s Shoes, and the Ketchup Advisory Board.
Tickets go on sale to Wilson Center members on Wednesday, Oct. 4, 10 a.m., and to the general public on Friday, Oct. 6, 10 a.m., here — or by contacting the ticket central box office between 2 p.m. to 6 p.m., Monday through Friday only. Call 910-362-7999 for more information.
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