The night Garrison Keillor consoled a grieving state

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Ten years ago tomorrow night, Garrison Keillor had the most unenviable job in Minnesota.

In the wake of the plane crash 10 years ago today that killed Sen. Paul Wellstone and seven others, Keillor had to start his show with its usual comic personality at a time that was decidedly unfunny.

Wellstone was dead, the state was reeling, a memorial service hadn’t yet divided the state, and in many ways, Keillor had the task of being Minnesota’s consoler-in-chief.

The lights dimmed. The audience waited. The usual show open didn’t happen, at least in its usual spot. Instead, Keillor and his cast rose to the occasion as Guy Noire, private eye. He provided some laughs, and then reduced us all to tears.

“I’m not here to do a eulogy or a memorial.” he said after the bit. “The guy already has a city named after him right here.”

Unfortunately, it’s only available online as RealAudio (the dominant audio player 10 years ago), but if anything can make you reinstall it, this segment is it.

Listen.

  • Mac Wilson

    Yep, Real Audio bombed out three times in 11 minutes, but I can confirm that it’s worth the effort.

  • Jeff

    It’s unfortunate the memorial ceremony hosted by the Democratic party was far less dignified.

  • Jamie

    Jeff, one person spoke in a way at the memorial service that many thought was inappropriate. The Democratic Party was not responsible for that person’s speech (and I don’t know that it was the Party that hosted the service, either). But his speech, while perhaps mis-timed, not smart, and not comforting to many, was not undignified.

    What WAS undignified was the reaction by many to that one person’s speech: Before Wellstone’s death, he was winning in the latest polls, but because one otherwise not-very-influential person gave an impassioned, heartfelt speech, many un-thinking, shallow people decided to change their minds about who they were going to vote for. Because of one speech, they suddenly didn’t care about justice anymore, they didn’t care about all the things Wellstone stood for, and they cast their votes for someone diametrically opposed to everything they had cared about when they had planned to vote for Wellstone.

  • Bark

    Sure, the bad speech was bad, but if you remember correctly, it wasn’t the final one. Sen. Harkin had a chance to calm everyone down, without pissing everyone off. Instead, he exhorted the crowd to “say yes!”. Always remember that Harkin was the one that turned in into a rally.