WASHINGTON — Raconteur Garrison Keillor, on a book-selling break from his new life in Denmark, says that what he misses most about his radio show is singing songs with people who know the words.
Keillor gave up "A Prairie Home Companion," a Saturday night fixture on public radio, in June after 13 years. He said at the time he wanted to move with his Danish bride to Copenhagen, write full-time and "resume the life of a shy person."
The humorist brought fans up to date Tuesday on his progress during a talk at the National Press Club that also was broadcast over public radio.
"It's lovely to come here and break my retirement with you," said the 45-year-old satirist, who seemed a bit rusty at times.
"It's a frightening thing to get up in front of a microphone and be on radio and talk to a room full of people after months of not doing it, months in another country," he said.
Asked if he would do another show, Keillor confessed: "I miss it terribly. I could not find any work in Denmark that I was the least bit useful at, except for washing dishes.
"The first thing that I missed was that the person who was standing next to me and drying the dishes was Danish, and so did not know the words to the same songs that I know and that I used to sing with my sister when I did dishes," he said.
"That's what I miss about the radio, is singing songs with people who know the words."
Sometimes, he said, he speaks in English to an imaginary audience in the darkness at the back of his Copenhagen cupboard, behind the cups and saucers.
Keillor decried the fates that landed the Minnesota Twins in the World Series only after he left Minnesota, took a few cracks at Wall Street and claimed he came back to lobby for five-week mandatory vacations for all Americans, including the homeless.
He told a joke in Danish, and supplied the translation, but volunteered no tales from Lake Wobegon, his mythical hometown "where all the women are strong, all the men are good-looking and all the children are above average."
But virtually every question that reporters sent up on index cards begged Keillor for scraps of news from Lake Wobegon.
Keillor allowed that Bob's Bank had gone unscathed in Monday's Wall Street debacle. "Bob's has never invested heavily in anything that you couldn't personally visit in about a half hour," he explained.
Keillor said Lake Wobegon's "gospel birds" were "as yet untouched by scandal," but he lamented that he had not written a story about their handlers, the Lundeens.
"That's what happens, you see, when you make reference here to a story I've told you in the past. I've had . . . five months to sit and contemplate all of these people whom I've told stories about, the Lundeens and the gospel birds and all of the other people," he said. "A story teller has to keep working. If you ever stop and think about what you've done, you feel such guilt for not having done better by these people.
"So do you have another question about Lake Wobegon that I can suffer over?" he asked press- club President Andrew Mollison of Cox Newspapers.
"I never knew that the Dow Jones average was above 500 so it could fall that far," he said. But he boasted that it would not affect Minnesotans whose personal stock "rose several thousand points" when the Twins won the American League pennant. "It would take more than a stock market drop to bring them down."