Live Backstage Chat
October 23, 1999

HOST: Hi everybody, welcome to the Prairie Home Companion backstage chat. We're live at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, and will be chatting with Prairie Home staff and performers.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is the laughter on PHC prompted?

HOST: No, there is a live audience - no laugh track, no APPLAUSE signs.

HOST: Tonight's guests are guitar legend Doc Watson with Jack Lawrence, and the gospel group the Fairfield Four.

HOST: The band is warming up onstage now, and Garrison is doing his warm-up monologue.


HOST: We're backstage at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, Minnesota.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How does the chat session fit with the show? It is not quite 3:00 PM here, so we can't hear the show, even when it is on air, for a couple of hours.

HOST: If your radio station doesn't air the show live, you can hear it on the Web at right now!


HOST: We're the staff and guests of A Prairie Home Companion.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Can we hear the warm-up monologue?

HOST: Only if you're at the show! Though we might stream it on the Web at some point in the future - we're looking into it.

MODERATOR: Hey! You can see live images from the show RIGHT NOW! Go to

HOST: Garrison's doing his intro now, segueing into a song. It's pretty quiet backstage right now, it was incredibly hectic about 10 minutes ago.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: But didn't PHC go off the air in 1987?

HOST: Yes, it took a hiatus for a couple of years, but came back better than ever.

MODERATOR: The show is currently celebrating its 25th anniversary!

HOST: Governor Jesse just made his appearance! Remember, if you want us (the PHC staff and performers) to see your questions,you must type them in the "ask a question" box, NOT the chat box.

MODERATOR:: The actors will be making an appearance as time permits.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Love Who came up with the idea for that?

HOST: Larry, of course! He's got a lot of free time hanging out in Garrison's basement. Look for more great products soon!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What's this chat event about?

HOST: The chat is backstage at A Prairie Home Companion. If you're not familiar with the show at all, go to to listen live and learn about the show. The chat is a way for you to learn about the show, talk with other fans and ask questions to the show's stars.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Why is PHC not on PBS television?

HOST: It's a radio show, not television. It lets people imagine the world of Lake Wobegon themselves.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Who does the Governor imitation?

HOST: Tim Russell - he's probably going to be chatting with us in a little bit, in between his skits onstage.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: When will the show be in NY next?

HOST: From November 27 to December 25. The joke show will be there this year!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Larry can't come up with it! Was it Tom or Garrison Keillor or who? I never heard of Larry having an Internet connection in the basement.

HOST: It was a combination of Garrison Keillor and Minnesota Public Radio's Online department. We've always wanted to expand PHC on the Web and integrate it into the show.

HOST: Garrison is introducing the musical guests now, we've got Doc Watson, he's been playing guitar for decades.

HOST: We're joined now by Mike, the Assistant Producer, he was on last week.


HOST: Any questions about the show's workings, ask Mike.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Does Garrison write most of the material for the show, or just his monologue?

MIKE: He does write a prodigious amount. Some of you may not know it, but during the monologue he doesn't use any notes. It's all from memory.

HOST: Tom Keith, the Sound Man, is here now. Submit your question now.

TOM KEITH, SOUND EFFECTS: Hi, the sound effects guy has some free time until the Bob script.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: OK, another question. Are the sound effects guys on stage so you can see how they are making the sounds?

TOM: Thank you for the compliment by thinking that there is more than one sound effects guy, but it is only me, Tom. Yes, I am on stage and everyone can see what I'm doing.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What's it like, working with Garrison Keillor? What other kinds of work do you do besides the show?

TOM: It's great and he makes us do our best. I co-host a morning show broadcast on the Minnesota Public Radio network from 6am - 9am.

HOST: OK, Tom's going back on stage now. We're joined by Tim Russell, the voice of the governor!

TIM RUSSELL: Hi, Tim Russell here.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What was the reference to Tim Russell?

TIM RUSSELL: I do a lot of the voices on the show, Pop's, Jesse , Dusty, Jimmy and assorted other Ethinc and odd ball voices-- it's fun

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How did you learn to switch between so many voices so fast?

TIM RUSSELL: It's just a weird gift , you can categorize them all and hear them in your head.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Nice to see Jesse shaking up the liberals in Minnesota--do you think they (the establishment) will be more effective once Jesse is kicked out of office?

TIM RUSSELL They might be, but we would be very sad, a character like the Governor comes along once in a lifetime.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Tim! You sound just like the gov! Is he amused?

TIM RUSSELL: The governor has indicated to me that as long as it's in good fun, he considers the imitation the sincerest form of flattery.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Tim, do you use this weird gift for other work?

TIM RUSSELL: I probably should romance my wife as Cary Grant, but I'm not that creative.

HOST: Tim had to go onstage,he'll be back, though.

ANDREA MURRAY, COMPANY MANAGER: Tim's gone back to the show. I, Andrea Murray, Company Manager, have replaced him at the keyboard.

HOST: Any questions for Andrea, ask now!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Do you rehearse before the show?

ANDREA: We generally have band and script rehearsal on Friday afternoon. Then we rehearse again on Saturday, including soundchecks with the guests.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Any good Halloween skits this week?

ANDREA: It's not Halloween this week, so no. Perhaps next week, but we won't get next week's scripts until Friday.

HOST: If you're not listening to the show as you're chatting, don't forget that you can go to and listen live on the Web.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Ms. Murray do they ever let you do guest appearances?

ANDREA: I don't know that any of my talents would be appropriately showcased on the radio.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is Garrison over the cold he had last week?

ANDREA: I believe so. He mentioned on Thursday that it was getting better.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: When is the next televised appearance for A Prairie Home Companion?

ANDREA: There are no televised appearances schedule at this point. There may be something in the future.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Never saw the show is it worth watching?

HOST: It's worth listening to, though!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What does a company manager do?

ANDREA: Among many other things, I arrange travel and hotels for guests and for the staff and crew when we're on tour. I also wrangle the rush ticket line and prepare the showbill for the audience.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Where is your Web site?

HOST:, it's got live audio and pictures,plus archives, features, and more.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Hello Andrea. What's your biggest Joy and headache with this show?

ANDREA: My biggest joy comes at the end of the show when I know I've been part of making a great broadcast. My biggest headache is dealing with things that affect the show but are beyond our control, like airport delays.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Does it ever worry you that scripts don't get done until Friday?

ANDREA:: No, because we know he'll do them. It's beyond worry.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How long does it take to write a show?

ANDREA: No one knows but Garrison. He has a busy schedule outside the show, so it's not like he's in the office writing at any particular time.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: You have to wait to the end of the show for that joy!?

ANDREA: Well, I get a good idea during the show, but it's kind of like knowing you've done a good job at the end of the day.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Who is responsible for the scripts? Only Garrison Keillor?

ANDREA: Writing them? Mostly Garrison, although we have writers who submit things. After they're written, the staff is responsible for copying and distributing them to staff and cast.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Please repeat Web site for show.

HOST: The Web site for the show is

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Who is the PHC guest tonight?

HOST: Right now it's Andrea, the Company Manager, but Tim Russell and Tom Keith were just on, they'll probably be back later, along with other staff and show performers.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: He is an amazing man. Does he know exactly what he wants in, or is there extra stuff that gets culled at rehearsal?

ANDREA: Generally we have a lot more stuff than we need. Sometimes we have lots of scripts, or too much music. As rehearsal progresses on Saturday, we decide what will be used.

HOST: Here's Tom Keith, the sound effects guru.

HOST: Any questions for Tom about his amazing sounds, submit them now!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What would you say was the best show?

TOM KEITH: The last one was the best one and this one is the best one.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is everything on stage or an orchestra pit?

TOM KEITH: Everything is on stage. Even though it is a radio show we still have an audience and the visual is important

AUDIENCE QUESTION: You say WE decide what will be used. How does that work?

TOM KEITH: Garrison decides but because he is such a creative person it isn't often that we bring out an old sketch that wasn't used

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Tom is timing natural ad hoc, or very rehearsed?

TOM KEITH: My timing comes as a natural thing. It isn't something that you can teach.

HOST: Tom has to go onstage now, here's Sue Scott. Any questions for Sue, ask now, she's only got a few minutes

SUE SCOTT: Hey guys, how the heck is everyone??

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Sue, what's your favorite character?

SUE SCOTT: Deanna Brower, the woman floating up the Red River from a couple of years ago. I had a great experience with her.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Sue, your great. Do you do any voice work on commercials? Or other stuff we would recognize?

SUE SCOTT: Yes, I do lots of radio and TV commercials. I also do theater in the Twin Cities sometime. Schedule permitting

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Sue I love your Duct Tape voice. Has Maureen ever fixed an underwire bra with duct tape?

SUE SCOTT: Not yet...but one never knows!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How did you come to work in PHC troop?

SUE SCOTT: I auditioned back in 1992 when Garrison brought the show back to Minn. And I got cast... that's it!!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How can I listen to the show on my computer?

HOST: Go to You can listen to our live realaudio stream.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Do you consider this show your major career ambition?

SUE SCOTT: I'll tell you, right now it sure feels like it and I have absolutely no problem with that!!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Are you ever nervous doing these sort of things?

SUE SCOTT: The only time I am nervous is when I have to start the show. I mean actually start the show. Right out of the shoot, even before Garrison Keillor.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What was the audition like?

SUE SCOTT: Garrison Keillor asked me what a Minnesotan sounded like to me and I started improvising in MN. Then he asked about a New Yorker, then a gal from the South, etc. It was a blast! After that I had a 2-hour call back in the studio with 5 other people... and the rest is history, as they say.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Who is the most famous person you have ever met?

SUE SCOTT: The person who impressed me the most was Charles Kuralt. He was on the show 3 years ago in NY. He was such a fan. An absolute doll!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: I might be crazy but what is a Prairie Home Companion?

HOST: It's a weekly variety show broadcast on public radio stations nationwide hosted by Garrison Keillor, and with his famous Lake Wobegon monologues, musical guests, and more.

HOST: Sue Scott had to go onstage now

TIFFANY HANSSEN, MARKETING DIRECTOR: Hi. I'm Tiffany. I'm the Marketing Director for the show.

HOST: Any questions for Tiffany, ask now!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Do you ever get nervous about how the show is going? And whether the material will meet the time?

TIFFANY: The show is in a constant state of flux. We are always revising what's going on. We are not really bound strictly by time...we're fortunate that we've got 2 hours of time. Mr. Keillor is really gifted when it comes to deciding how different elements of the show fit together.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How do they get the greetings from people?

TIFFANY: We have baskets placed at various points in the lobby, and people can submit their greetings. All of the baskets are collected after the show begins and Russ Ringsak sifts through all of them.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is Garrison backstage at all during the show?

TIFFANY: Yes, Mr. Keillor floats between backstage and on-stage. Obviously when he's singing, introducing people, or participating in scripts he's occupied on stage. But when the artists are performing, he's usually backstage talking with our producer Chris Tschida about how the show is going and if things should be rearranged or not.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is Garrison writing a book currently? Lake Wobegon Days was genius!

TIFFANY: Mr. Keillor has been busy working on screenplays (to the best of my knowledge), and of course he recently published "ME."

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What all does your job involve?

AUDIENCE QUESTION: As Marketing Director, are you responsible for things such as this chat? How is it determined where PHC will go on tour?

TIFFANY: My job is to deal mostly with stations, promotions, media relations, public relations, etc. Pretty much a whole bunch of miscellaneous stuff. I'm not responsible for this chat. I work closely with our New Media people to make our Web site as effective and interesting for our listeners. Our New Media department is responsible for all of the cool stuff that appears on the Web site.

HOST: Actually, I'm the producer of these chats - I'm a producer in Minnesota Public Radio's online division.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: So PHC uses MPR's Web Media Department and Producers?

HOST: Yes, A Prairie Home Companion is a Minnesota Public Radio show.

TIFFANY: I just try to come up with fun ideas now and then. As far as tours go...we tour to public radio stations that submit proposals.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How early do you have to get to the theater to get those rush line tickets that are sometimes advertised on KLSE?

TIFFANY: Rush tickets are available starting at 4:15 pm . . . but I advise getting here around noon.

HOST: Andy Stein is with us now. Any questions about the band, ask Andy now!

ANDY STEIN: Hi, I'm Andy Stein, I play in the Shoe Band

AUDIENCE QUESTION: For the instrumentalists on the show: I understand you don't always have a lot of practice time. How much of the music do you invent on the fly, and how do you prepare for the show?

ANDY STEIN: It varies from show to show. I figure the average Band Feature takes one and a half or 2 shows to make it through the cutting process to get aired. We rehearse about 3 hours on Friday and make a few calls to each other during the week. Other than that its a blitz from 11 (central time) to show time at 5 on Sat.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Has there ever been bagpipes on the show?

ANDY STEIN: Yes, a number of times - The Battlefield Band of Edinburgh has been on at least 2 or 3 times (Big Mike On Pipes).

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Andy, you all are terrific musicians, but I sure miss Butch Thompson. You know what he's doing instead of PHC every week?

ANDY STEIN: Butch does a lot of concerts around the country and in Europe. He also is a frequent guest with the Guys All-Star Shoe Band.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Have you made any albums?

ANDY STEIN: The Shoe Band made a CD a few years back.

HOST: You can get Andy's album in the PHC catalog.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: I love the variety of music on the show. What's the process the acts go through to get booked?

ANDY STEIN: Our Associate Producer Stevie Back is in charge of screening and soliciting and ultimately trying to put together a nice mix on each show.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Can you tell me a station I can pick it up on in Zip Code 77364 East Texas? I listen to you when I am in Houston but can't pick you up here?

HOST:: has a listing of all the radio stations nationwide that carry the show; if one doesn't carry it, you can listen online at the Web site.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How long have you been with the Companion?

ANDY STEIN: I've been with the show for 10 years plus.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: What keeps you with the show that long?

ANDY STEIN: Great food on Saturdays, great people to work with, and hell it's a great gig.

HOST:: Tom Keith is back with us now - thanks to Andy for the great answers! Any questions about sound effects, ask Tom now!

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Tom, does Garrison Keillor ever ask you for sounds you haven't rehearsed? I'm thinking of when you run through a whole list of animals.

TOM KEITH: We try to present it as though it is unrehearsed but I know what is coming . . .usually.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: You do all those sound effects on stage?

TOM KEITH: Yes, I do. Garrison could have gotten other sound effects people who do effects from tapes and CDs and an instrument called a sampler. Since it was a live show infront of an audience it would be much more interesting to have the effects done physically and so that is what I do.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Who is the funniest person you have worked with?

TOM KEITH: There are two gentlemen that both Garrison and I admired and loved and they were Bob Elliot and Ray Goulding.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Tom do you use any synthesis enhanced sounds?

TOM KEITH: They only recorded sound I use is when I need what is called a sound bed. A sound bed is used when, for example, Dusty and Lefty are sitting around the campfire and the sound of crickets will be prerecorded because it runs for a long period of time. Otherwise all the effects are done vocally or with props.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: I see in movies that they have "foley effects." Is that the same work that you do?

TOM KEITH: The foley artists do the same thing I do. The name comes from a gentleman by the name Jack Foley who worked for Paramount Pictures

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Where is Garrison actually from?

HOST: He's from Minnesota. Tom is getting ready to get back on stage. Here's Andrea, the Company Manager.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: I have seen a list Garrison Keillor used as guide for one show. Does he always work from that kind of schedule?

ANDREA:Yes. Before each show, we put together a rundown of what we expect the show to be. This is then copied onto cards that Garrison uses to keep track of what's coming up.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: How does Garrison Keillor come up with his Lake Wobegon monologues?

ANDREA: Only Garrison knows. I imagine he's inspired by things he sees and hears in the news and around him.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Does Garrison pay any attention to this chat activity?

ANDREA: While he's interested in what's being said, he's too busy with the show to participate.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is he in the room now?

ANDREA: He's on stage doing the monologue now.

HOST: You can listen online to him right now at We stream the show live in RealAudio.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Andrea, the show list I saw was on an 11x17 piece of paper, large enough that it could lay at Garrison Keillor's feet and he could read it. In addition to the cards?

ANDREA: That's what I was referring to. It's actually a mid-weight cardstock.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is Company Manager a full-time job?

ANDREA: Yes, thankfully. It's nice to only have one job.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Please give me the Web site I can listen to PHC on the Web with?

HOST: The Web site is

AUDIENCE QUESTION: When is the next time you will come out to the West Coast?

ANDREA: We will be in Pasadena and Redding, California, in June. Check our Web site for the exact dates.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is there any chance of a Texas visit in the near future??

ANDREA: Nothing is scheduled for Texas this season, but we won't know about future seasons for a while.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Is there any place to get back copies (or listen to) old programs, specifically the Tales from Lake Wobegon.

ANDREA: While we don't sell tapes of the shows, but you can access old shows (including monologues) on our Web site

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Are there any censors or does Garrison have total creative control?

ANDREA: He has creative control, for the most part, but he does work within some general guidelines of what's considered acceptable for radio broadcast.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Does Garrison Keillor make up the stories of Lake Wobegon on the spot, or does he have an outline in mind when he starts?

ANDREA: He writes them out and uses notes for the broadcast. He sometimes wanders a bit from the script.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Will he be participating in a chat sometime? I read Mr. Blue, and his Post to the Host responses occasionally. Both are such a pleasure.

HOST: Well, during the show he's pretty busy, but we're hoping to get him right after the show ends one of these weeks, if we're lucky!

MIKE: Hello. It's me, Mike. Andrea stepped away for a minute.

HOST: Mike is back to talk about the show's production. Any questions, ask him now!

MIKE: There about 5 of us who get things ready for the cast and crew. That means getting the scripts ready, etc.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Do you accept scripts from listeners?

MIKE: On occasion we accept short scripts.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Do you know how Garrison Keillor coordinates work with the other writers? Is anything cowritten?

MIKE: He does not do much cowriting.

AUDIENCE QUESTION: Does the cast go out and party after each show?

MIKE: You wouldn't believe the parties we have.

MIKE: Show's over, gotta run!

HOST: Actually, Mike's got to go work now, not party! There's lots of loose ends to tie up after each show and backstage gets pretty chaotic.

MODERATOR: Hey everyone, thanks for chatting with us. We have to tear everything down now, as the evening winds down. Thanks to all who submitted questions this week. We'll be back next week, same time and place. Get your questions ready! Thanks again, and goodnight.


Old Sweet Songs: A Prairie Home Companion 1974-1976

Old Sweet Songs

Lovingly selected from the earliest archives of A Prairie Home Companion, this heirloom collection represents the music from earliest years of the now legendary show: 1974–1976. With songs and tunes from jazz pianist Butch Thompson, mandolin maestro Peter Ostroushko, Dakota Dave Hull and the first house band, The Powdermilk Biscuit Band (Adam Granger, Bob Douglas and Mary DuShane).

Available now»

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