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November 2, 2007 | 4 Comments

Dear Mr. Keillor,
As a long time listener I don't recall you explaining how you came up with the phrase about Lake Wobegon where all the women are strong, the men are good looking, and the children are above average.

I have been listening for nearly as long as the show has been on and that phrase was the first one I could remember without having to listen to a broadcast.

Andrea A.
Hastings-on-Hudson, NY

I remember constructing the line back in the early days of the show, Andrea, and taking care with each phrase in the series. It was a very deliberate invention. I was doing a sort of routine that was migrating from stand-up toward an extended story and I needed a line to indicate THE END. The stand-up started out as a broad parody, based on the police blotter column in a small-town paper (and also the social notes, e.g. "Mr. and Mrs. Keillor had supper Thursday evening at the home of the William Pedersens. Also present was Mrs. Pedersen's brother Duane and his wife Lurleen."), so that's where the "news" came from in "The News from Lake Wobegon". It's a signature line that holds up pretty well, I think. I grew up with strong women and I like the romantic characterization of men and then the line about children, which has been picked up by other people including educators, is a sort of anti-test-score joke and also expresses the hope of parents for their children. They each have enormous possibilities, whether or not anybody else thinks so.


About your tagline for the "News:" I have been listening to your show since forever, and I remember the phrase was originally: "...where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are WELL above average." I have often wondered when and why the children stopped being "WELL above average," and became only "above average." Thanks for any light you could shed on this question.

Thank you for the explanation of both the famous closing line and the evolution of the news. As a long time listener I've wondered about it's derivation but never thought to ask. I also love the closing line for the Writer's Almanac "Be well, Do Good Work, and Keep in Touch". It's so heartfelt without being cliche' that I sometimes use it in closing my training programs. I always attribute it to you, of course!

The phrase "...where the women are strong, the men are good-looking, and the children are WELL above average." never occurred to me that it needed to be made up. I grew up in Anoka, MN (a.k.a. Lake Wobegon) and this phrase summed up everything about my parents, my education, and my values. I have lived in many places since then, but that phrase always reminds me of where I have come from. I guess I never gave Garrison Keillor any created for this phrase because it seems so obvious and reflective of that community.

Regarding the comment "...and all the children are above average", my daughter points out that if all the children are above average-that level would become the new average.

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