When “A Prairie Home Companion” host Garrison Keillor takes the Dodge Theatre stage tonight, don’t count on any visits from Guy Noir or a jazzy musical number from The Guys All-Star Shoe Band.
It’s a simpler affair with the sonorous public radio icon, “An Evening With Garrison Keillor,” at the downtown Phoenix venue — a night of storytelling and reading by the Lake Wobegon series author. But you can count on plenty of humorous insights into the lives of Minnesotans and Lutherans.
“It’s just me, myself and a microphone,” Keillor says, “and people seem to like it.”
The Minnesota radio DJ turned folksy humorist and storyteller is heard by more than 4 million listeners on the weekly “Prairie Home” radio show, broadcast in the Valley 5 p.m. Saturdays and rebroadcast 10 a.m. Sundays on KJZZ (91.5 FM).
The radio show was also made into an eponymous film, directed by Robert Altman, in 2006.
Recently, Keillor responded to interview questions from the Tribune via e-mail.
Q: We’re doing this interview as you’re preparing the popular, annual “Prairie Home” joke show. Do you have a favorite joke this time around?
A: A man is depressed and calls up Lifeline and gets a call center in Pakistan. He tells them he is depressed and suicidal and they get excited and ask him if he can drive a truck.
Q: Is there a secret to telling a joke well?
A: A joke is a little mechanism and every part needs to be in place.
Q: Your upcoming appearance here isn’t structured like “Prairie Home.” Will you be just talking or singing as well?
A: I always sing a little bit and I tell a string of stories which, seeing as it’s Phoenix, might be about winter, since that’s what Phoenicians went there to get away from.
Q: Do you have any connections to the Valley?
A: Envy would be the main one, I guess.
Q: Solo appearances, I’d imagine, would tend to bring out more ardent fans than “Prairie Home” companions. You — and your radio show, and the Lake Wobegon books — appeal to a wide swath of folks, of course, but could you typify the Garrison Keillor buff?
A: There are several kinds, starting with people my age who remember (dimly) old radio shows and like my show. Then there are their children, who were forced to listen to the show as kids and who grew up to enjoy it, and then there are their children, who don’t know anything but they fall asleep, and that’s merciful for us all.
Q: The span of your work is certainly impressive: writer, radio showman, film actor, poetry editor. What is there left that you’d like to tackle?
A: I want to write a play so that I can sit in the dark and watch actors do my lines and bring them to life. I haven’t done that yet and I’m 65 and it’s time to get serious. That’s my plan for July. And also I want to write a Lake Wobegon movie and direct it. I plan to do that in August.
Q: Last month, you offered your endorsement of Barack Obama in the current presidential race. Would that imply you’re Minnesota’s version of Oprah Winfrey? You do both oversee distinct media empires.
A: Hers is the endorsement that counts and mine is just an old Northern Democrat trying to be relevant. I loved his autobiography, which was one of the most remarkable memoirs ever written, I think, especially by someone who doesn’t consider himself a writer. I think he’d make a president we could all admire, and what a big change that would be. So I hope Oprah is working hard for him.