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Wobegon humorist to test Tampa's wit

By RICK GERSHMAN
Published May 12, 2006


There's a funny bit in an episode of The Simpsons in which the family listens to a televised speaker patterned after Garrison Keillor.

Homer can't figure out why the studio audience is laughing. He starts pounding the television and yelling, "Stupid TV! Be more funny!"

Alas, not everyone gets Keillor's dry wit. And in a world of The Simpsons and South Park, Keillor's quiet, literary humor is an anachronism.

But then, maybe using words such as "anachronism" in a 21st-century newspaper column is an anachronism in itself.

IF YOU GO: Garrison Keillor speaks at 7:30 p.m. Thursday at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center's Carol Morsani Hall, Tampa. Tickets are $19.50, $25.50 and $35.50; go to tbpac.org or call 229-7827.

Let's just say Keillor would seem to belong in a different era.

Best known for his public radio show A Prairie Home Companion, his books and New Yorker writings, Keillor appears Thursday evening at the Tampa Bay Performing Arts Center.

Now Keillor's riding the heat of some new projects. He began writing a syndicated column last fall, and a film version of A Prairie Home Companion will hit theaters soon.

Keillor fans can expect plenty of wry commentary from the towering humorist. He's revered in some camps as a modern-day Mark Twain and loathed in others. President Bush fans in particular have taken umbrage to his columns.

Keillor recently wrote that Congress should hold the president "to account for war crimes and the failure to attend to the country's defense. Impeach him and let the Senate hear the evidence."

Already politically polarizing, Keillor also divides camps in a literary sense.

Ever check out the amazon.com user reviews for Lake Wobegon Days? They alternate between five-star accolades "wonderful," "classic," "timeless" to one-star rips ("boring," "really boring," "incredibly boring").

So Keillor might not be everybody's cup of tea. Although, if you're the kind of person regularly disposed to drinking cups of tea, you're likely to be in his target audience.

I understand the passion of Keillor's fans. He provides a gift for understatement that's all too rare these days.

On the other hand, Deal or No Deal is on NBC at 8 p.m. Thursday. Probably not going to be a scheduling conflict there.

You have your Howie Mandel fans, and you have your Garrison Keillor fans. Now that's what makes America great.

Rick Gershman can be reached at rgershman@sptimes.com or (813) 226-3431. His Times blog, The Ill Literate, is at www.sptimes.com/blogs/tampaarts.

[Last modified May 11, 2006, 17:10:40]


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