Kevin Kling uses humor to deal with life’s challenges

NEW ULM – National Public Radio (NPR) commentator, storyteller, playwright and Twin Cities author Kevin Kling kept a full-house crowd in a light mood with humor about the human condition at the Life Living Series Monday night at the New Ulm Public Library.

His spirit seems hard to match. Kling overcame a birth defect that shriveled his left arm and recently survived serious injuries from a motorcycle crash. He also survived being struck by lightning. He remains a prolific writer and performer who plays the tuba. He may be best known for his contributions to NPR’s “All Things Considered.”

Kling credited his grandmother’s ability to describe life in a small town to helping him become a storyteller.

“She loved to talk about the drugstore. You can tell a lot about a person watching them come out of a drugstore,” he said. “She took such delight in events that happened. I also learned that good storytellers are good listeners.”

Mother’s Day and the Minnesota Fishing Opener are typically scheduled on the same weekend. “A fishing boat may have had my body, but my heart was always with my mom,” he said.

His mother possessed the ability to look remarkably stern. “We got a speeding ticket once in Iowa. The cop looked at my mother and got into his car and drove off after she looked at him,” Kling said.

He recalled his experience when he was given morphine last summer at Hennepin County Medical Center after colliding with a car that pulled out in front of him and his vintage BMW motorcycle on Lake Street in south Minneapolis. “I had an amazing sense of peace,” Kling said. “I felt like I was skiing behind a power boat. All I had to do was hang on. I remember very clearly having the choice to come back here or move on. Neither seemed like the wrong choice, but I decided to come back, knowing there would be consequences.”

The accident broke his right shoulder and hand, tore nerve endings, paralyzed his arm temporarily and shattered several facial bones. Surgeons rebuilt his right eye socket and put his teeth back in place.

Because Kling dealt with anger and sleep issues after the motorcycle accident, he visited a therapist. “She walked me through the accident again, but this time I missed the car and started getting better. But I sometimes get the symptoms of the ailments I had again. Other times, I find my most creative moods late at night or early in the morning.”

Storytelling is something between imagination and the real world, a bridge to the inner and outer landscape, Kling said.

The audience gave Kling a standing ovation at the end of his performance.

He has published three books, “The Dog Says How,” “Holiday Inn,” and “Big Little Brother.”

(Fritz Busch can be e-mailed at

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