Garrison Keillor: A couple weeks ago I went to California to receive the John Steinbeck Award and I wouldn't mention it now except that I knew it would astonish you that a show like this one would get any award other than the Kohler Flush Toilet Award. (TOILET) This used to be a high-class show and then we got into sound effects (WHOOPING CAR ALARM) and I rue the day -- if there is one day I rue, that would be the most rueable -- the day we first had a man do a tap-dancing caribou on the show (CARIBOU DANCING) -- that was Fred Newman's daddy, Boo Newman, and within hours (MORSE CODE SIGNAL) we received hundreds of telegrams suggesting new sound effects -- a man shooting a flaming arrow into a quart of small-curd cottage cheese (SFX), a man being chased by bees and diving into a vat of molasses (SFX), a steam calliope going down a staircase and over a cliff while playing Debussy's "Clair de Lune" (SFX), a dog choking on a chew toy and coughing it across the room and hitting a cuckoo clock which then falls on a small child who throws a fit and drops her ice cream cone in the fax machine (SFX) -- and suddenly our show, which had been devoted to inspirational stories about ordinary people who made a difference, plunged into the mudpile of popular entertainment. (SFX) Hundreds of Unitarians around the country wrote in protest -- "What happened to you? You used to speak to the conscience of the nation and now you are putting a whoopee cushion under the nation's butt." (WHOOPEE CUSHION) All I can say in my own self-defense is that after growing up in a sod shanty in North Dakota (BLIZZARD) I have self-esteem issues and that led me into the comedy field (CLOWN HORN HONKS) and once you get in this field it's a slippery slope (SLIP, CRY OF ALARM, CRUNCH).
GK: So it was a big thing for me to go to California and walk up to the podium (FOOTSTEPS) and accept the coveted Steinbeck Award -- (HONKY VOICE, P.A.: "I can think of nobody more deserving of this great honor.......) -- which was a very handsome bronze bust of John Steinbeck and I took the speech out of my pocket and set it on the podium. (THUMP) It was a paper I wrote in college, "Kitty-Cats As Erotic Tokens in John Steinbeck's 'Of Mice and Men'" which got a C back then but I've rewritten it some. I looked out at the audience gathered in the ballroom of the Huntington Hotel in San Francisco and I was going to give the speech and I don't know why I started talking about calcium supplements, but I did -- and I was talking about bone loss and osteoporosis and aging -- and I noticed (VARIOUS LIGHT SNORING SOUNDS) that the audience was motionless and their eyes were closed and their mouths wide open (SNORTING) and some of them had put their heads down on their tables and all the members of the Steinbeck family were asleep, Tom (SFX) and Rose of Sharon (SFX) and Casey (SFX) and George and Lennie (SFX) and Gramma (SFX) and nobody was awake. I said. "And so, in conclusion" and nobody woke up.
GK: I fled through a fire exit (RUNNING FOOTSTEPS) and up a stairway and I came to a landing and opened a door (DOOR OPEN) (ZOMBIES) and found myself in a hall ful of people who had just heard my speech. The elevator doors opened (ELEVATOR) and I got on and (BANJO) there was a fellow in coveralls with sixteen bushels of barley. (FN: Howdy.) I had gotten on the grain elevator by mistake. And when I got off on the ground floor (WIND) I was just west of Jamestown, North Dakota.
GK: I hitchhiked for awhile (SEMIS PASS) and then I hopped a freight (FREIGHT TRAIN) and I made it home and next time I give a speech I know what I'll talk about -- I'll talk about five minutes. Anyway thanks for the Steinbeck Award.