NEW YORK (Reuters) – “A Prairie Home Companion,” the U.S. radio variety show that Garrison Keillor presented for decades until his retirement last year, has been renamed “Town Hall,” days after the raconteur was accused of sexual misconduct.
Chris Thile, the mandolinist who took over as host of the long-running show last year, announced the name change on Saturday from the Town Hall, the New York City theater where it is staged before a live audience.
In opening the first episode since Minnesota Public Radio ended its business relationship with Keillor, Thile called Keillor’s dismissal “heartbreaking news” and linked it to other prominent men in politics, media and entertainment who have been accused of sexual harassment or assault.
”As for this show, I want it to be a place for us to gather around, hear great music, laugh together, reflect and gain respite from our weekly troubles,“ Thile said. ”And I‘m as thrilled as ever to say: “Coming to you live from New York City, welcome to ‘Town Hall.’”
A spokesman for the show did not respond to questions on Sunday.
After his firing, Keillor, 75, said in an email to the Minneapolis Star Tribune that he had accidentally touched the bare back of a woman with whom he had worked and that he later sent a note apologizing to her after seeing her recoil.
The woman who accused him of misconduct has not been publicly identified.
Keillor created “A Prairie Home Companion,” a mixture of gentle comedy sketches, music and social commentary, and hosted the program from 1974 to 2016. He created a fictional Minnesota town, Lake Wobegon, which featured in the show.
Besides Town Hall, the show was often staged at the Fitzgerald Theater in St. Paul, in Keillor’s home state of Minnesota.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Frank McGurty and Lisa Von Ahn