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January 17, 2007 | 27 Comments

Mr. Keillor-
I sent the following comments to my radio station that has just started its semiannual fund drive; I hope it serves for some consideration. Thanks.

I have been a supporter of WVXU over the past years and with the membership drive here again I want to call on the station to drop Prairie Home Companion.

Just recently this show has aired programs from Honolulu, New York City and San Francisco — surely among the most expensive cities in the country. You make the case for supporting the radio station and how expenses are rising every year, but anymore I can only hear, "It's vitally important you do your part to send Garrison to Hawaii and Manhattan." As long as the show depends on the generosity of listeners (from whatever amount they are able to give as you ask) I think Mr. Keillor should demonstrate - and we should demand - some better discretion on how the funds the station spends so much effort in raising are spent.

John S.
Cincinnati, OH

The cost of PHC to the stations, John, is the same, whether we go to New York or Honolulu or, as we did this fall, to Music Hall in Cincinnati. What the stations pay for is the right to broadcast the show. The fee varies according to the size of the market so, for example, the Cincinnati station pays more than the station in Missoula and less than the station in San Francisco, and the travel schedule often isn't set in stone until the season is well underway. PHC is unusual among radio shows in that ticket revenue is a major part of the budget. In Honolulu, for example, we more or less paid for our travel expenses by doing two new shows in one day, a live broadcast in the early afternoon and another show in the evening which was taped for broadcast earlier this month. Two fresh monologues, new sketches, etc, all in one day. You seem to suggest that we're cruising around and enjoying the sights at the expense of the listeners. I don't think that's true. It is true that we stay in hotels and don't sleep on floors, as we did in the early days of the show, but we're all getting older, John, and we can't get along as cheaply as we used to. I would be happy to keep the show right here in Minnesota for thirty-three weeks a year, and not have to fly hither and yon, but stations want us to keep touring. The Cincinnati station wanted us to go there, and Hawaii Public Radio wanted us to come out there. Both earned revenue from our visits. Hope this clears up the matter.


Hello Mr. Keillor and PHC,

I appreciate that PHC is very broad-based across the United States. Your touring embraces the entire country. Thank you for your and your staffs' time and effort to accomplish the traveling. It certainly keeps the show interesting - but then, anything that you write would be interesting. Thank you for your inspired monologues, dialogues, skits and wonderful humorous writing that lightens our lives.

With warm appreciation of all of PHC,

I'm glad GK set this individual straight, although I have a feeling that anyone who actually thought that the cost of PHC was being entirely supported by Public Radio is a bit daft. The corporate sponsorships are right there at the beginning of the broadcast for Pete's sake! And in an age where TV stars and athletes complain about their long, grueling schedules, it's amazing that PHC carries on as it does so faithfully giving us 30 or more new shows every year. However, I'm not convinced GK would be content doing shows only in St. Paul as PHC is rapidly adopting NYC as its second home. A few too many shows there for my Midwestern taste, I'll admit.

Hey, I paid $65.00 plus a service charge for my ticket at the War Memorial Opera House here in San Francisco and was glad to pay that price to be in the audience. GK is right when he says that local ticket sales add up to a lot of the cost -- the Opera House was sold out. I have no problem with the show traveling. If nothing else, it keeps people around the country interested and I think the localized humor, stories, and guest performers when teh show is one the road give the show more variety than if it were always done in St. Paul. It also demonstrates why the show has such appeal. You don't have to be a Minnesotan or of Scandinavian descent or of the Lutheran persuasion to love it.

I work for a living -- I'm a legal secretary -- and yet I make a very substantial pledge to our local PBS/NPR affiliate, KQED, and I surely don't and won't begrudge the station a dime of it because APHC happens to travel.

Apparently, Toyota and Sleep Number Beds doesn't have a problem with it either.

So I hope John S. will drop his mistaken objections to APHC going on the road and keep supporting his local NPR affiliate without demanding that they stop broadcasting APHC.

Dear Garrison,
I, for one, love hearing where you are coming from - whether it's Minnesota (and below zero) or near the sunny beaches in Hawaii, or at Wolf Trap near our Nation's Capital. I imagine what it's like there and its fun to listen to the different audiences' take on your humorous topics. I think your traveling show adds to the flavor of the program. I also know that it's nothing short of superhuman to travel as you did over the last four weeks (New York to Nashville to Honolulu to San Francisco). People who do not have to travel for their work have no idea how extraordinarily difficult it is.
And, finally, speaking of Nashville, your show at the Ryman was the greatest New's Eve show I've ever seen - and I've seen a few. I'd love to get a DVD of it, or better yet, do it again next year!!
Thanks so much for PHC,

Dear Garrison:

As one who's seen you here in San Diego at least twice (thrice, if you count a show with the Hopeful Gospel Quartette) and been a supporter of public radio for over 3 decades, I'm well aware of the economics of underwriting and touring. And you responded to the writer's financial concerns very tactfully. More so than I would have.

Yet there's another consideration. Your tours not only add an element of surprise and freshness to each broadcast, but also make you and your wonderful ensemble accessible to people in every corner of our great nation. Not just over those miraculous airwaves, but in living, breathing flesh. They bring you all to life, make you real.

And those tours prove to us all that people this funny, talented, dedicated and completely human truly do exist. Thank goodness.

I agree with John S. My family will continue our grassroots ketchup and rhubarb boycott until you are confined permanently to the Upper Mid-West.

Thank you.

It would seem that wherever Garrison goes, he takes his listeners with him and for that, I am grateful. I don't begrudge him a thing. Indulgence is relative I suppose, but it's not like he is making 75 million dollars a year for playing soccer or that people in Hawaii shouldn't have a chance at seeing a live show once in their lifetime just because they live in paradise.

I recently moved to Cincinnati and was absolutely thrilled that PHC was coming to do a show. Unfortunately for me, tickets sold out very quickly. It's a small indication of how popular PHC is here. As a native Wyomingite, I really enjoy hearing shows from Missoula and Yellowstone. One of these days I'll make it to one! Lefty and Dusty get my vote, and NPR gets a new member.

You tell 'em, GK!

Dear Mr. Keillor,

I am a member of WVXU (and I will be working a shift on this pledge drive). If WVXU were to drop PHC, I would drop them as my public radio station!

I was THRILLED that you brought the show to Music Hall this past Thanksgiving weekend! I bought a lot of tickets for my family to see the show (part of their Christmas gift!), and I ended up with houseguests longer than I would have had your show NOT been here! (That's ok---they finished up all the leftovers from Thanksgiving Dinner!) It was a great show, but I did have to explain to my kids (who are in their 20's)the significance of HAPPY TRAILS TO YOU--that was a bit before their time...

Please come back to Cincy! We love you here!!

I personally am too poor to go anywhere I have to pay money to see a show even though I would love nothing more in the world than to get to see Mr. Keillor in any capacity live just once before one of us shuffle off this mortal coil. I have very little disposible income so I choose carefully were it goes and listener supported public radio has made it possible to allow me access to the arts and have provided me with many tools to open up worlds to my son.

That being said I feel Mr. Keillor deserves any comfort and amenity he has EARNED. This man is an artist and a genius and if there were justice in this world he would be the richest man alive. The decades of joy, pleasure and edification that he has contributed to humanity by his efforts and talents are immeasurable.

As I grow older I want to stay home more and more and I am sure Mr. Keillor feels the same way. I am so pleased that he does not have to live on a shoestring budget.

Dear Sir:
You suggest that you do not simply spend time cruising around enjoying the scenery. I would have thought that was the primary reason for the job.

I would like to apply for the next vacancy!

I do hope you don't think that everyone in Cincinnati is as ill-informed and fiscally uptight as John S. There are lots and lots of PHC fans here, as witnessed by the fact that the November show here sold out relatively quickly. Keep it up and thanks for bringing us all your great entertainment.

I am a broke medical student in Cincinnati, and listening to PHC is a highlight of my week. I have supported WVXU and would gladly dip further into my merger budget if it meant keeping GK on the road. Also, how many more times does GK need to mention the Sleep Number Bed before people realize there is serious corporate sponsorship for shows like this? Keep it coming, PCH! And come back to Cincy soon!

I wish I had the chance to pay $65 or even $165 to see the show in my hometown! Two shows in Hawaii? I'll take one in Dallas.

And here I thought the GK monologues about Dark Lutherans were all hyperbole. One actually showed up and posted to the host!

As a member of KJZZ in the greater Phoenix area, I believe that getting a chance to see programs like PHC or "Wait, Wait Don't Tell Me" live embellishes the public radio experience.

It's fun to have our favorite hosts work in references to local areas, and it changes the way you "see" the programs from then on. I can remember feeling a chill when casual audience banter from the stage changed suddenly to the musical flourish and the announcers' words "From Minnesota Public Radio ...", and I knew that what we were seeing was going out live from Sun City West in 2003. That kind of special experience needs to be shared with more than the St. Paul audience.

Hi, Garrison -
I'd like to thank you - in bringing your show to communities all around the country, you also bring them to us. I get a kick out of hearing your commentary on each town, both straight and funny, and I feel as though I know my neighbors a little better because of you, even though some of them are so very far away. Thank you for keeping in touch; I'm doing the best work I can. - Meg

Gosh! At first I thought that John S.'s letter was tongue-in-cheek.
I'm also glad you set the record straight! I've been a loyal listener to PHC for as long as I can remember, and I'm so happy the show now has corporate sponsorship and opportunities to travel. It has been a rich addition to my's an old dear friend.

Dear Garrison,

Where to begin...This may take a few moments to follow. I was introduced to you and your wonderful show many years ago by a man who would endup becoming my best friend and the Best man in my wedding. After the very first show I have been hooked. I had never really listened to public radio before that and had certainly never pledged to one before.

Now after nearly two decades of faithful listening, I not only pledge to one local station, but to four local stations. I drive two hours one way to work everyday. I spend a fair amount of time in my vehicle. I cover most of the state of Michigan in a given week. If it were not for the broadcasts of your show and the rebroadcasts on Sundays, I would be a horrible driver. Your shows keep me poised while I motor down the highway.

I myself have been to see you on various ocassions. A couple of times as the host of live APHC broadcasts and once as yourself in Flint, MI. this last fall. The most memorable meeting would have to be in East Lansing, Mi. a year ago Thanksgiving when my wife accused you of being responsible for our two children. I am sure you remember the story.

The reason I write to share my story is this. Had you not been on the road traveling that night so many years ago Chris would not have introduced you to me. I would not have the wonderful friend that I have today. And most importantly I would not have met my wife and be the father to two very phenominal children. So if anyone would have a better reason for you to travel across this greatest of nations to visit places and bring joy to all that may hear your voice, I would certainly entertain their coments. I myself can think of only one, and that would be to do a live show for our brave troops in the middle east.

God Bless,

Greg A. McPherson

In response to your complainer John,

I am not surprised by your myopic views of economics, touring shows, and public relations. It is not your fault. You're from Cincinnati. I am a displanted New Yorker who has fallen in love with Cincinnati, though the 10 year love affair started off rocky. I have definitely learned that not leaving Cincinnati makes one have a very strange view of the world. So everybody, give this poor John a break. He is simply a victim of my favorite saying of Cincinnatians. Sixty-percent of Cincinnatians have never left the fair Queen city, and the other 40% have only been as far as Dayton.

Hope the second show does **not** have so much of GK's horrid attempts to sing Hawaiian style.

Mr. Keillor, you gotta put it away. You are not a singer for broadcast. It is very irritating when you insist on horning in on songs with your wonderful guests.

Way to tell him, Garrison...I'm so glad so many folks responded sooo highly in favor of your side, namely, in GREAT support of your travels..
Thanks for traveling around the nation...It's wonderful for us...You are our EYES! I learn so much about so many different cities...You make them so fun and interesting...I don't know how you all survive all of the travel...but thank heavens you do...You are all to be commended and thanked..
I have only one word for John...He's a CURRMUGEON!
Never stop traveling...but do get plenty of rest in between and stay well for all the REST OF US!

In great thankfulness for all you do..
One of your greatest fans.
Christine (Tina) Scherr
Fort Collins, CO.

Aloha Mr Keillor,
I hope it won't be another 20+ years before you and PHC return to the islands. We were lucky enough to sit in the first show and it exceeded expectations. We realize it's a long way out to the middle of the Pacific Ocean and we appreciate you bringing a little of Lake Wobegon here. Contrary to popular mainlander belief, Hawaii is more than sun, surf and lu'au. Most people here have multiple jobs just to get by - paradise has its costs. We cherish those special moments when stars align enough for us to share the PHC experience like you lucky folks in Minnesota. Mahalo plenty to KIPO and KHPR for all their good works in getting PHC here. (BTW,John in Cincinnati sounds like he could use a litte ketchup) Come back soon! - Diane

I, for one, would be happy to contribute to a fund to keep John S. on tour indefinitely.

It might cut down on expenses if you did your show from smaller towns...say, ROLLA, MO, where KUMR listeners live for Saturdays (and repeats on Sundays), thanks to underwriting by Delano Oil Co. Nestled in the foothills of the Ozark Mountains, Phelps County would be the perfect venue for your gang, gang! Come on down and see us, where the wineries abound, the rainbow trout will be ready to catch on March 1, and the people are itching to see your show live. (Or at least we hope that's why they're itching...)

My husband and I saw PHC last night in Philadelphia. Judging from the very enthusiastic reception that GK received, plus the fact that tickets to the event were sold out months ago, John S. from Ohio is in the minority when it comes to moving PHC to various locations around the country. Keep traveling, GK and PHC!

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