Garrison Keillor, 'A Prairie Home Companion' creator, says he's retiring

Keillor says he'll be done after the summer of 2016. 'Writers never retire,' he said. 'But this is my last season.' Keillor created the radio show in the 1970s.

Jim Mone/AP
Garrison Keillor is the creator and host of 'A Prairie Home Companion.'

Garrison Keillor, who created the long-running radio show “A Prairie Home Companion” and also hosts the program, has said he is retiring.

Keillor says he’ll be done after the next season of the variety program, which means that his final show would be in the summer of 2016.

“I have a lot of other things that I want to do,” he said. “I mean, nobody retires anymore. Writers never retire. But this is my last season. This tour this summer is the farewell tour.”

The tour to which Keillor refers is a tour titled “America the Beautiful” that will travel to 30 cities and will begin later this month. Keillor says singer and mandolin player Chris Thile, who has served as a guest host on “Prairie” before, will be his replacement. 

“Chris Thile is a gifted artist and a great musical enthusiast of far-ranging interests,” Keillor previously said of Thile when the singer briefly took on the guest-host job. “He is a great choice.” 

The host said he would like to explore various areas following his retirement.

“I've been everywhere, and I've seen very little,” Keillor said. “I've seen a lot of hotels, a lot of airports, I've seen the backseats of cabs and I've seen backstages of theaters. I go to all these wonderful places and I never walk around and I never see things because I'm working.” 

“Prairie” debuted in 1974 and is broadcast on various public radio stations as well as on SiriusXM Radio and online. Most episodes of the show consist of musical performances of various genres, comedy routines, and Keillor’s segment “News from Lake Wobegon,” which discusses the happenings in a fictional Minnesota town. 

The radio show was the basis for a 2006 movie of the same name directed by acclaimed helmer Robert Altman. The movie “A Prairie Home Companion” imagined the last day of a radio variety show and starred such actors as Meryl Streep, Lily Tomlin, Lindsay Lohan, John C. Reilly, Woody Harrelson, and Kevin Kline.

Variety programs were very popular during the early days of radio, with such programs as “The Kraft Music Hall,” famously hosted by singer Bing Crosby, being aired. Similar modern programs are NBC’s “Saturday Night Live,” which combines comedy sketches with musical performances by a guest performer, and late-night talk shows like “The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon” and “The Late Late Show,” which is hosted by James Corden. These programs combine comedy, with the host often discussing current events in a stand-up-style monologue, as well as interviews with guests. Fallon’s show especially resembles a variety show in that he and his guests will often participate in additional segments where they lip-sync to songs, dance, or play games. 

In addition, NBC has been trying to revive the genre recently, airing "The Maya Rudolph Show" with the former "Saturday Night Live" cast member in 2014 and planning to debut the variety series "Best Time Ever With Neil Patrick Harris" this fall.

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