How offensive does entertainment have to be before someone actually files a formal complaint with the government?
Not very, if one recently unearthed complaint to the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) is an indication. Then again, context matters. You expect to be titillated, challenged, maybe even shocked, by the content of late-night chat or sketch shows.
But Garrison Keillor?
It's true. At present, there's exactly one complaint that has been filed, reviewed, and closed for A Prairie Home Companion, a fact recently learned by MinnPost reporter Greta Kaul, who posted her data request's result online. (The retention window on closed complaints is only three years, so any offense taken at raunchy "news from Lake Woebegon" bits from the 1990s have been lost to the paper shredder of history.)
The complaint originates from November 2014, and was submitted by a resident from Elk River, a Twin Cities exurb northwest of Minneapolis. Its sender's name has been redacted. He or she found one snippet of that week's A Prairie Home Companion "indecent and disgusting."
Nay! Coming from this show, a trusted beacon of Midwestern modesty and purity, it's "utterly horrifying, shocking, and unacceptable."
Here's the complainant's submission in full.
About a month later, the FCC filed a response. The above complaint "provides the Commission with valuable information," it wrote, informing it about "trends and practices that warrant investigation and enforcement action." The investigation into animal killing and devious sex on A Prairie Home Companion ended on Christmas Eve, 2014.
From the submission, it's hard to tell just how this phrase came about. Maybe an off-the-cuff remark uttered by out-of-towners, without our Minnesotan sensibilities.
Nope. This was scripted, and spoken by the man himself.
The words "rough sex with his wife," as said by Garrison Keillor, demand context. Say, 13 and a half minutes of context. We dug up the episode that featured this "horrifying" passage, and it's uploaded below. Turns out the "story" behind it involves not one but two deer.
There's also lying, infidelity, and a murder-suicide. Somehow none of this was enough to merit an FCC complaint. Just the sex thing.
Such is life in Lake Wobegon, where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking, all the children are above average, and all the FCC complaints are about references to rough sex on syndicated public radio.