Prairie Home Companion: The Greatest Hits.
August 20, 2007 6:27 PM   Subscribe

Please help me put together the best of Prairie Home Companion.

Growing up as an NPR kid, I heard bits and pieces of Prairie Home Companion each weekend on the radio, and enjoyed much of what I heard. There's nothing quite as soothing as Garrison Keillor's voice, the humor is fantastic, and the music is always fun.

However, I've come to learn that not everyone else grew up as I did, and thus have a limited appreciation of PHC. I want to put together a kick-ass collection of clips for my friends and myself, but I'm not sure where to begin; since my own experience is admittedly scattered, I don't have too many monologues or segments to use as a starting point.

To hopefully narrow it down: I like the recurring humorous segments (Guy Noir is great, and I just heard one about a research librarian this weekend that my dad said is a running thing), as well as the fake commercial jingles. I must say, though, that I'm mainly drawn by Keillor's simple monologues about Lake Wobegon, the ones where he's sort of hushed and turns even mundane words into incredible language. I'm remembering one in particular about a mattress coming off of the top of someone's car on the highway, and his descriptions of it flopping and bouncing across the road; it was humorous, but so beautiful.

So basically, any suggestions? Also, any tips as to how I should gather these selections? I know that there are some CDs out and that they recently started doing podcasts, but that's all I've come across. Thank you!
posted by sarahsynonymous to Media & Arts (20 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I love News from Lake Wobegon. I was introduced to it by my then boyfriend, now husband, and we wore the tapes out driving from home to dorm to home during our long-distance relationship.

It's just Lake Wobegon stuff, the only music is when it's part of the story. If you're only doing a few clips, then I'd say you can't miss "A day in the life of Clarence Bunson" for that Keillor mix of pathos and humor. Or "Tomato butt" for pure humor.
posted by saffry at 6:37 PM on August 20, 2007

The Lutheran ministers on the pontoon boat... the best thing ever!
posted by HuronBob at 7:09 PM on August 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

These stick in my mind, so maybe that's a testament in itself:

1.) ANY TIME Calvin Trillin is on, there seems to be some classic moment. Whether he's reading from one of his books about "chiggers" or portraying Thomas Jefferson in a sketch.

2.) I was repeatedly dazzled by the (very sadly) late Susannah McCorkle whenever she appeared on the show. Such a beautiful singer that Keillor rarely tried to horn in with his flat, tinny drawl.

3.) Studs Terkel shocked me by how well he stepped into PHC skits; he could have been a regular.

4.) Vivid memories of poet Bill Holm reading from his: "The Dead Get By with Everything".
posted by RavinDave at 7:10 PM on August 20, 2007

May I second the mattress monologue? I heard it once and it stuck with me as a particularly good piece. If anyone could point me to the show in which Keillor performs this monologue, I'd be very, very grateful.

I am partial to the joke shows, myself.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:14 PM on August 20, 2007

On preview: RavinDave, McCorkle's version of "The Waters of March" on PHC remains the loveliest she ever did. R.I.P.
posted by MonkeyToes at 7:16 PM on August 20, 2007

Best answer: Maybe some of the current broadcasts would do -- all during this summer they've been composites of previous shows, usually with a theme.
posted by Rash at 8:14 PM on August 20, 2007

I love the ketchup sketches myself. The recent joke show one was particularly funny.
posted by stefnet at 8:17 PM on August 20, 2007

Best answer: Some of the best of that I've always loved were from his cassette collection (4 tapes) entitled "Faith", "Hope", "Love" and "Humor". (I found two of them on CD, hence, the links.) And the story, "Storm Home" from his "Winter" collection. Oh, what a great story!!

10th Anniversary Collection is an excellent sampler. And you can't miss with the Prairie Home Comedy Collection from 1988.

PHC is how I (Brooklyn-born Catholic-raised Irish-American girl) ended up married to a tall, quiet but funny Swedish/Norwegian-American man who has family in Minneapolis. Seriously. When we met, it was one of the first things we talked about. My extensive PHC cassette collection. One year later, my cassette collection was stolen from my car in Chicago and I've mourned it ever since. Sigh.
posted by jeanmari at 9:55 PM on August 20, 2007 [1 favorite]

I don't think it matters where you start with PHC because the whole thing is great. Sure, seasoned listeners might have favorties and memories, but it's really something you either get or you don't get. There's a double CD out there.
posted by rhizome at 9:56 PM on August 20, 2007

Songs of the Cat has the "In and Out Cat Song" which is not to be missed.
posted by jeanmari at 10:09 PM on August 20, 2007

Oh, don't forget to include the bit where the kids take the RV out onto the ice, spend the day fishing and drinking, fall asleep, and it begins to melt overnight....
posted by Womanscientist at 4:12 AM on August 21, 2007

For those that are new to PHC, maybe the annual joke show or the talent from towns under 1,000?

And I second stefnet, the natural mellowing agents in ketchup gets me every time!
posted by B-squared at 8:06 AM on August 21, 2007

At least one of the Raw Bits commericals.
posted by KneeDeep at 9:34 AM on August 21, 2007

Many many shows are archived on the website (older ones have only some portions available).. The convenient part being that the audio is perfectly split up to grab just "The News From Lake Wobegon" bits you want - they are usually labelled "Monologue".

Only problem? Real audio.. bah! Dealing with that might be a MF question for another day.
posted by mbatch at 9:37 AM on August 21, 2007

Keillor's reading of Poe's "The Raven" is spectacular. I'd reccomend buying the lake wobegon tapes (tomato butt and pontoon boat stand out) there are tons, and they're all good. The halloween tape is great and has the raven on it, and the original guy noir tape (where guy and pete kill each other every episode) is classic. Definitely get the first guy noir tape.
posted by Large Marge at 10:49 AM on August 21, 2007

Alright, I am saying this as someone who was born in Minneapolis and grew up hearing a lot of PHC. It is not something you are going to be able to convert people to, with a best-of tape. PHC is something that one is either naturally inclined to like or not. I have heard a great amount of it, and I honestly cannot stand the sound of Garrison Keelers voice, it just seems so incredibly self adoring to me that I cannot get past it.

But this seems like a pretty nice idea on your part, and I think the above are good suggestions for you, still do not take is personally if some of your friends do not take your generous gift and immediate develop the same lifelong affection for this program.
posted by BobbyDigital at 10:53 AM on August 21, 2007

I must say, though, that I'm mainly drawn by Keillor's simple monologues about Lake Wobegon, the ones where he's sort of hushed and turns even mundane words into incredible language.

You can get this section of the show as a free podcast on iTunes. Subscribe to it, and it will automatically download for you when new episodes are released.
posted by Thoughtcrime at 11:26 AM on August 21, 2007

I agree w/ BobbyDigital that "you are going to be able to convert people to, with a best-of tape." I've heard it said that appreciation of Garrison is impossible if you're under thirty. With me, the figure was more like 35, but after that I gradually became the regular listener that I am today.

Another negative on the mix tape I'd like to point out is, fresh is what's most important to me. I never re-listen to old shows, since the topical humor (based on current events) is what's become most important, to me.

That, and the ketchup. Plus Dusty & Lefty, and The Story of Bob.

posted by Rash at 3:18 PM on August 21, 2007

I'll third the opinion that you won't be changing anyone's mind about this show with a mix-tape. I was going to ask a question along the lines of "What is it that people find redeeming about PHC?" last week. I got stuck listening to it again on the way to my mother-in-law's and had to turn it off. I'm pushing 30, so maybe I'm too young. If that's the case, then hope I never get so old as to find Garrison Keillor entertaining.

I will say that the music is often quite good, but only when the vocals do not betray the smug, false modesty that oozes from the rest of the program. Maybe putting together a strictly musical compilation would open some doors if you're intent on evangelizing.
posted by the christopher hundreds at 10:05 PM on August 21, 2007

(I fell in love with PHC at age 27 from the "Best of" tapes that the program distributes. Didn't get into the radio show until age 31. YMMV.)
posted by jeanmari at 9:42 AM on August 23, 2007

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