How has radio changed since you started your show?
Back in the day, you had to sit in front of a large wooden radio with columns like the Acropolis. You sat in the presence of radio, and you listened to it. Now you can pick it up and carry it. You can listen to anything you want, and the Internet brings radio anywhere around the world.
Which do you enjoy more, singing or storytelling?
Oh, singing, because it's easy and you do it with other people. The singing that I do is duets. Singing duets with tall and attractive women--there's nothing about that a person couldn't enjoy.
Why do you always wear red shoes?
HUNTINGTON BEACH, CALIF.
Someone suggested to me that I try wearing red shoes, and she said this in a suggestive way, so I went right out and I bought three pairs. Women just know more than we do about most things.
How did you come up with your catchphrase "Where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average"?
Ashita Gona, RALEIGH, N.C.
I needed to solve the problem of any writer telling a story--how do you end it? You can do a gentle fadeaway: "He went to the window and looked out into the darkness. Snow was falling gently through the spruce trees." But that's not good for half the year. If you just pause and say, "That's the news from Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average," problem solved.
How has the fictional town of Lake Wobegon changed since you started writing about it?
Mary Kay McMahon
A lot of people have left. The world calls to the people of Lake Wobegon, especially to the young. I don't know what it is, but they leave. All of the work that we put into raising them and educating them and instilling values of industry and loyalty and kindness--it all goes to benefit other parts of the country. It's a tragedy.
How did you master both writing and oral storytelling?
NEW PHILADELPHIA, OHIO
I didn't. There's no mastery to be had. You love the attempt. You don't master a story any more than you master a river. You feel lucky to canoe down it.
You once wrote that the humorist is the most endangered species we have. Is that still true?
D. Younker, ST. CLOUD, MINN.
No. The Internet is full of humorists. They've risen from the earth. They've fallen from the skies. Anyone can write anything, anytime they want. Blogs that are angry--which maybe half of them are--wear out. What people keep going back to are writers who are funny. That's a great thing.
Which is better, Minneapolis or St. Paul?
I live in St. Paul, so I have to say Minneapolis. We're brought up to be self-effacing in Minnesota.
What role do you feel public radio plays in America today?