Me on Me on Garrison Keillor

In an exclusive interview with himself, a lesser god of public radio explores his feelings about the Lord of Lake Wobegon.

(Note: Garrison Keillor’s new book, Me by Jimmy (Big Boy) Valente as Told to Garrison Keillor, was published Monday. The publisher describes it as “an uproarious political satire about a professional wrestler who’s elected governor.”)

What have you got against Garrison Keillor?

Me: Nothing.

Come on, you’re talking to me.

Me: Nothing, really. Just one time (this was years before I was a second-tier public radio personality) I went to see his show at the Tech College, caught him out in the corridor, and lied to him about how much I liked his show (really, he talks so slow it makes me nervous, plus all that lip noise indicating introspection being released into the atmosphere) and, silly boy, launched into how I was doing a live daily radio show from a greasy spoon and all, and he looked at me and said, “Do you know where the bathroom is?” I did, having just been there. But I vowed on the spot that, should I ever be in a position to be accosted by fans, or faux fans, in a hallway, wanting to tell me about their life, I would always have something more constructive to say.


Unless you really have to pee.

Me: True. But I try to emulate country music stars–they may be assholes, but they’re great to their public.

Working on the asshole part?

Me: You should talk.

Right. So what besides that?

Me: Nothing. Well, in every press interview I’ve ever had that goes over 25 words, two of them are “Garrison” and “Keillor.” That gets to you pretty quick. They all want to talk about what we have in common, as if I’m doing Lutheran standup. I told one guy from Night Scene in Biloxi, Miss., that I was up to .67 Keillor Units, but that was just bravado and doesn’t include royalties, speaking fees, catalog sales, ancillary rights, etc. Now this well-timed new book should put him way ahead. You could probably get two or three of me for one Garrison now.


And a player to be named later. So it’s the shadow thing?

Me: Yeah. Either he’s getting bigger or the sun is setting.

On the other hand, he’s got Mark Twain between him and daylight.

Me: That would account for the occasional white suit.

And he’s got to get past Ring Lardner first.


Me: True. And Benchley. And S.J. Perelman …

… can rest in peace.

Me: You said it .

Who wins a Jesse “The Body” vs. Gary “The Kitty Boutique” grudge match?

Me: My money’s on Garrison, as long as it stays out of the parking lot.

Yeah, in a parking lot he’s dead, bent over the trunk of a Trans Am, face smeared against the rear window.


Me: Brains all over the Oakley Thermonuclear Protection decal.

Yeah. For messing with the best.

Me: Hooyah! But if it’s strictly hyperbole, with the ring strung with verbal barbed wire, Garrison will helicopter him on one finger so Jesse pees outside the ring.


Read the new book, huh?

Me: Worse, I took it on vacation. Fortunately, I had Nabokov’s short stories. White Russians drinking the same. Anyway, Me is kind of a comic book, very heavy on graphics like you used to find in Johnson and Smith catalogs, and rife with bold print emphasizing nothing in particular:

Fairbanks White Blaze Vanderbilt Used Rambler Alcan Highway The post office The cogs simply do not mesh As a bear would say goodbye to a leg trap


That’s not bad. I kind of like that.

Me: Sounds like Red Green on acid.

So you pretty much liked the book then?

Me: No. It’s pretty hard to parody a parody.

But it’s “a political satire.”

Me: Animal Farm was a political satire. “A Modest Proposal,” was a political satire. What Garrison has written is a parody. Look it up. And why do we call him by his first name, anyway? What is he, “Saddam”?

Anything else you liked about the book?

Me: The guy looking at the Playboy spread “The Women of NPR.” Now that’s funny.