S/D: Joe Frank

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I can't find any threads on Joe, so I apologize if I've missed it.

My fave stuff is from In The Dark, but my collection is woefully incomplete (I have about a GB of MP3s and 20 cassette tapes). I think my fave is Pilgrim. What programs do you like?

libcrypt, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:35 (sixteen years ago) link

He's a big hero. I'm listening to an "In the Dark" right now as a matter of fact.

Stormy Davis, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:44 (sixteen years ago) link

(it's not one of the best ones though, tbh, so I am sort of half-listening)

Stormy Davis, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:44 (sixteen years ago) link

I think that sort of semi-attentive listening experience is integral to Joe Frank appreciation.

libcrypt, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:50 (sixteen years ago) link

I like it best when he gets in Robert Ashley mode with the background music and tells (what seem like) true stories about his life ... I don't really like the more fantastical shows as much. but that's not a hard and fast rule, i mean I always find something to like in every show I've heard. I like it when he interviews the ex-girlfriend and the actor guy. and i like the Buddhist. those segments always rule.

Stormy Davis, Monday, 28 May 2007 04:58 (sixteen years ago) link

I really like Joe Frank but I've only scratched the surface and it seems like he has such a large body of work. I heard a great one once about an aspiring actor's brief affair with an actress - a simple story where the affair leaves a longer impression on him than it did on her, as he slowly discovers. But it's a really well-told story.

Hurting 2, Monday, 28 May 2007 05:10 (sixteen years ago) link

I don't know his stuff in depth, but I used to love 'Work in Progress' on the radio years ago.

Spencer Chow, Monday, 28 May 2007 05:25 (sixteen years ago) link

Work in Progress is vastly inferior to In the Dark, in my opinion.

libcrypt, Monday, 28 May 2007 05:27 (sixteen years ago) link

Fave episode is called (I think) "Traffic Report."

Everyone knows about his podcast, right? http://www.joefrank.com/cast/

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 28 May 2007 10:11 (sixteen years ago) link

"Work In Progress" is all I know, need to investigate more. Thanks y'all.

sleeve, Monday, 28 May 2007 21:25 (sixteen years ago) link

four months pass...

Rightist JF rip-off.

libcrypt, Friday, 19 October 2007 02:56 (sixteen years ago) link

i think my favorite is the one with bob odenkirk as keith richards and david cross as oj simpson's valet, but it's been so long since i've heard jf i can barely remember any others

babedad, Saturday, 20 October 2007 02:23 (sixteen years ago) link

one month passes...

so I just signed up for a "free membership" which gives access to a fair number of programs:


Does anyone know if he mixes staged phone conversations in with real ones?

Anyway, search An Enterprising Man, especially the motivational sections.

Hurting 2, Tuesday, 4 December 2007 15:24 (fifteen years ago) link

Does anyone know if he mixes staged phone conversations in with real ones?


winston, Wednesday, 5 December 2007 01:51 (fifteen years ago) link

there was a black minister who just sounded too fantastic to be real, so I'm assuming he wasn't.

Hurting 2, Wednesday, 5 December 2007 05:02 (fifteen years ago) link

eleven months pass...

Now is the time of the season to listen to a JF classic, Pilgrim. Please do so at yr earliest convenience.

sheepie (libcrypt), Wednesday, 26 November 2008 21:04 (fifteen years ago) link

man i have fond memories of listening to joe hung over on sunday mornings in my friends apt in pasadena. i preferred his short stories/narration over the guests he would interview. jack cornfield the buddhist monk and his close theatre buddy were good, but the rest of the recurring characters were kinda annoying. really bummed they cancelled his show :(

oscar, Thursday, 27 November 2008 00:32 (fifteen years ago) link

one year passes...

Revive. Shocking how little there is on this thread!

Kiitën (admrl), Monday, 28 June 2010 01:08 (thirteen years ago) link

Is this the guy from Hamilton Joe Frank and Reynolds?

henry s, Monday, 28 June 2010 02:10 (thirteen years ago) link

yeah, that's the guy.

no, seriously, i accidentally discovered this show circa, i dunno, 2002/2003 maybe... i was listening to radio quite a bit at the time. need to look into his stuff again...i remember really enjoying some of it. he and the best show, among other stuff, redeem radio for me and demonstrate what an awesome medium it can be

most vivid memory of it is some girl describing how she uncovered heretofore unprecedented love and appreciation for herself after doing ecstasy, and how that feeling became transmitted to others, even if only unconsciously, and others began to respond to her correspondingly. maybe that sounds annoying, but it was cool...plus interspersed with jack kornfield stuff and joe's inimitable radio voice

dell (del), Monday, 28 June 2010 03:30 (thirteen years ago) link

i listen every sunday night at 11 here in NYC, they play him on WNYC...he is excellent, best listened to in that space before sleep

iago g., Monday, 28 June 2010 04:07 (thirteen years ago) link

everyone that likes him and is on Facebook should add him ...


he'll add you and he totally posts random great stuff and stories just like his radio shows..

Stormy Davis, Monday, 28 June 2010 05:04 (thirteen years ago) link

heh not too surprised he's a fan of Breaking Bad

hobbes, Monday, 28 June 2010 05:14 (thirteen years ago) link

Agh, even Joe Frank's on Facebook! Still not going back though...

Cool Fetus (admrl), Monday, 28 June 2010 16:14 (thirteen years ago) link

one month passes...

Srsly. Bona-fide genius. Do not know why he is not like the most famous man in the world

The world's leaders on pills (admrl), Thursday, 12 August 2010 20:19 (thirteen years ago) link

Recommend shows. I like "No Show" and "80 Yard Run"

The world's leaders on pills (admrl), Thursday, 12 August 2010 20:21 (thirteen years ago) link

Year Show Song Artist Album
1978 The 80 Yard Run Hydra Grover Washington, Jr. Feels So Good
1979 Arena Solea Miles Davis Sketches of Spain
1979 The Death of Trotsky Solea Miles Davis Sketches of Spain
1982 Lies Unknown Steve Reich Music For Eighteen Musicians
1982 Lies Part One Phillip Glass Music in Twelve Parts
1982 Lies Ceres Motion Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co. Mother Mallard's Portable Masterpiece Co.
1982 Lies I Will Wait For You Mantovani To Lovers Everywhere
1982 The Decline of Spengler Unknown Steve Reich Music For Eighteen Musicians
1982 The Decline of Spengler I'd Have You Anytime George Harrison All Things Must Pass
1983 Questions Are You Going With Me? Pat Metheny Group Offramp
1983 Sales Walking Steve Tibbetts Northern Song
1984 A Tour of the City Remote Viewing Tangerine Dream Exit
1984 A Tour of the City Six Marimbas Steve Reich Six Marimbas
1984 A Tour of the City Flowered Knife Shadows Harold Budd Lovely Thunder
1984 A Tour of the City On Land Brian Eno On Land
1984 A Tour of the City Brothers of Darkness - Songs of Light Popul Vuh Herzog's Nosferatu Soundtrack
1986 A Landing Strip in the Jungle Regiment Brian Eno / David Byrne My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
1986 An American Flower Unknown Ry Cooder Paris, Texas
1986 Another Country Facades Phillip Glass Glassworks
1986 Another Country Qu'ran Brian Eno / David Byrne My Life in the Bush of Ghosts
1986 Cocktails Before Dinner Wing Melodies Jon Hassell Power Spot
1986 Cocktails Before Dinner Power Spot Jon Hassell Power Spot
1986 Highways West Time and the River Fred Simon Usually / Always
1986 Highways West Always Returning Briano Eno Apollo
1986 Let Me Not Dream Thursday Afternoon (61 Minute Version) Brian Eno Thursday Afternoon
1986 Night Ride Unknown Steve Reich Sextet / Six Marimbas
1986 Night Ride Unknown Gavin Bryars The Sinking of the Titanic
1986 Night Ride Flowered Knife Shadows Harold Budd Lovely Thunder
1986 No Show Unknown Gavin Bryars Hommages
1986 Why I Don't Love You Anymore Woe Be To Khorazin Popol Vuh Fitzcarraldo Soundtrack
1986 Why I Don't Love You Anymore Unknown Gavin Bryars The Sinking of the Titanic
1986 Why I Don't Love You Anymore Unknown Rickie Lee Jones Pirates
1987 At the Border A Different World Popol Vuh Cobra Verde
1987 He Hesitated Foreign Affairs Eno / Moebius / Roedelius After the Heat
1987 He Hesitated A Hole in the Head Soundtrack Frank Sinatra All My Tomorrows
1987 In the Middle of Nowhere The Stone Andreas Vollenwieder White Winds
1987 In the Middle of Nowhere N/A Joe Frank Commisioned N/A
1987 Rent a Family Gypsy Violin Harold Budd Lovely Thunder
1987 Rent a Family Brooks Was Here Thomas Newman Shawshank Redemption Soundtrack
1987 Thank You, You're Beautiful Brothers of Darkness - Sons of Light Popul Vuh Herzog's Nosferatu Soundtrack
1987 Thank You, You're Beautiful What the World Needs Now Harvey Sachs Unknown
1987 Thank You, You're Beautiful Creatures Startled Insects Curse of the Pheremones
1987 Thank You, You're Beautiful N/A Joe Frank Comissioned N/A
1987 The Policemen's Ball William Tell Overture The Portsmouth Sinfonia Unknown
1987 To the Bar Life Rosasolis Penguin Cafe Orchestra Signs of Life
1988 Building a Church The Spirit Cannot Fail Bill Nelson Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights
1988 Building a Church West Deep Bill Nelson Chance Encounters in the Garden of Lights
1989 Nausea The Race Yello Flag
1989 Night Turtle Dreams (Waltz) Meridith Monk Turtle Dreams
1989 Performer River Enya Watermark
1989 Performer Watermark Enya Watermark
1989 Road to Hell Unknown Country Joe McDonald Hold On It's Coming
1990 I'm Not Crazy Flight Feet and Root Hands Anreas Vollwnieinder White Winds
1990 Iceland Tzima N'arki Eno / Moebius / Roedelius After the Heat
1991 The Dictator They Drive by Night David Van Tieghem They Drive By Night
1991 The Dictator Principles of Lust Enigma MXMXC
1992 El Cholo (The Beginning) Spanish Reggae The Durutti Column Obey the Time
1992 In the Dark Unknown Thomas Newman The Player
1992 In the Dark Unknown Dave Grusin The Bonfire of the Vanities Soundtrack
1993 A Special Family Thursday Afternoon (61 Minute Version) Brian Eno Thursday Afternoon
1993 Coma The Silver Bell Harold Budd / Brian Eno Music From the Pearl
1993 Smile Unknown Mark Isham Little Man Tate
1994 A Natural Disaster Atom Dream William Orbit Strange Cargo 2
1994 Either / Or Into Dust Mazzy Star So Tonight That I Might See
1994 Joe Frank's America River of Bass Underworld Dirty Epic
1994 Just Hold Me Water From a Vine Leaf William Orbit Strange Cargo 3
1994 Natural Disaster Atom Dream William Orbit Strange Cargo 2
1994 That Night Unknown Unknown Behind the Eye Vol. 1
1994 Tomorrow Goye Kur Ali Farka Toure Source
1995 The Street (Dreamland) Rock Hammer Thomas Newman Shawshank Redemption Soundtrack
1996 Death in the Family Fila Brazilia Remix of Six Underground Sneaker Pimps Fila Brazilia
1996 Eye in the Sky Tortise Higher Intellegence Agency Freefloater
1996 Eye in the Sky Ai Du Ry Cooder / Ali Toure Farka Talking Timbuktu
1996 God Only Knows Sex The Necks Sex
1996 Just Get Me Out of Here The Lower We Fly Outside The Rough and the Smooth
1996 Justine G-Stoned Kruder and Dorfmeister Definition
1996 Justine Ponderosa Tricky Maxinquaye
1996 Lost Soul Weather Storm Massive Attack Protection
1996 Lost Soul Eurochild Massive Attack Protection
1996 Mountain Rain Valencia Rachid Taha Olé Olé
1996 Mountain Rain Buried At Sea MC 900 Ft Jesus One Step Ahead of the Spider
1996 Red Sea Go Faster Propellerheads Dive E.P.
1996 The River The Veldt Combustible Edison I, Swinger
1996 Three Shingles A Meeting by the River Ry Cooder / V.M. Bhatt A Meething by the River
1996 Three Shingles Isa Lei Ry Cooder / V.M. Bhatt A Meething by the River
1996 White Moon Infrarouge La Vague Sensorielle The Mighty Bop
1996 White Moon Freestyle Linguistique The Mighty Bop La Vague Sensorielle
1997 Bible Salesman One More Night Can Anthology
1997 Blacklight Stoned (Manali Cream Mix) Rockers Hi-Fi Rockers To Rockers
1997 Blacklight More and More (The Hidden Persuader) Rockers Hi-Fi Rockers To Rockers
1997 Blues Singer Blues Singer Portishead Dummy
1997 Fat Man Down Kontakte Les Rythmes Digitales Liberation
1997 Fat Man Down Alone Again So Kid Loco Journey into Ambient Groove 4
1997 Journal A Mother (For Your Mind) Herbalizer Blow Your Headphones
1997 Journal Remix of the Beast Palmskin Productions Journey into Ambient Groove 3
1997 Philosophy N/A Joe Frank Commisioned N/A
1997 The Other Side Chili Hot Johnathan Lurie Get Shorty Soundtrack
1997 The Policemen's Ball (Remix) Red Beans & Rice Spearhead Home
1998 Dark End of the Bar N/A N/A
1999 No Angel Durian Cinematic Orchestra Motion
1999 Prison Songs Angel Dust DJ Cam Substances
2000 Caged Heart Unknown Air The Virgin Suicides
2000 Karma (Series) Rearrange Cinematic Orchestra Remixes
2000 Karma (Series) Brazil Antonio Carlos Jobim Stone Flower
2000 Mercy Illicity Part One Extended Spirit Om Lounge Two
2000 Small World Karma Fear Cinematic Orchestra Remixes
2000 The Wire Stereo MC's Mix Ian Brown Love Like a Fountain Remixes
2000 Windows Brooks Was Here Thomas Newman Shawshank Redemption Soundtrack
2000 Windows Dusk You and Me Groove Armada Vertigo
2000 Windows Compass and Guns (Film Version) Thomas Newman Shawshank Redemption Soundtrack
2001 2001 Shows Sex The Necks Sex
2001 2001 Shows Doris Dub Tosca Suzuki
2001 2001 Shows Romantic Love DJ Cam Mad Blunted Jazz
2001 2001 Shows Brazil Antonio Carlos Jobim Stone Flower
2001 Evening Sky Romantic Love DJ Cam Mad Blunted Jazz
2001 Insomnia Loose Ends Sinéad Lohan No Mermaid
2001 Love Prisoner Dusk You and Me Groove Armada Vertigo
2001 Waiting For the Bell Friends and Enemies DJ Cam Substances

The world's leaders on pills (admrl), Thursday, 12 August 2010 20:22 (thirteen years ago) link

These shows are also just so beautifully edited, when the music transitions under his monologues it is so perfectly timed

The world's leaders on pills (admrl), Thursday, 12 August 2010 20:26 (thirteen years ago) link

>1997 Bible Salesman One More Night Can Anthology

I always loved what he did with that Can loop. He just let it go on forever. He did the same thing to Czukay's 'Ode To Perfume' in one episode.

Frank is famous as far as I'm concerned

Milton Parker, Thursday, 12 August 2010 20:26 (thirteen years ago) link

>1996 God Only Knows Sex The Necks Sex

Would like to hear this

The world's leaders on pills (admrl), Thursday, 12 August 2010 20:28 (thirteen years ago) link

two years pass...

as i mentioned on another thread, there are 4 new shows up here. all pretty good.

andrew m., Wednesday, 13 February 2013 17:14 (ten years ago) link

ten months pass...

damnit why does this dude charge so much for his shows?

signed, J.P. Morgan CEO (Hurting 2), Tuesday, 17 December 2013 16:26 (nine years ago) link

eleven months pass...

keep forgetting they play him on Sunday nights on WNYC

my jaw left (Hurting 2), Monday, 1 December 2014 04:27 (nine years ago) link

one year passes...


In mid-December 2015, my husband, Joe Frank, became ill. This is one in a long list of medical issues he has faced since he was born, beginning with corrective surgeries for clubbed feet between the ages of 3 and 5. He's survived cancer three times - the first time, he was given three months to live when he was just in his early 20s. Since then, he's had numerous hospitalizations and surgeries for a host of issues. Ten years ago, he suffered from kidney failure and was on dialysis for a year-and-a-half until he received a kidney donated by his cousin. In addition, for years, he's been enduring and managing pain caused by severe scoliosis of his spine.

horror story continues at https://www.joefrank.com/news/ but note...

In spite of obstacles, Joe continues to work on his next show for KCRW’s Unfictional. He is also resuming work on another project – we’ll keep you posted

Elvis Telecom, Sunday, 21 August 2016 23:21 (seven years ago) link

one year passes...


Milton Parker, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 06:48 (five years ago) link

RIP - https://www.facebook.com/JoeFrankcom/posts/10155898652082508

Elvis Telecom, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 16:10 (five years ago) link


I have not listened to him in awhile but a half dozen cassettes lent to me pre-internet by j1m w00dr1ng when i was young and impressionable made a huge, indelible impression

Winter. Dickens. Yes. (Jon not Jon), Tuesday, 16 January 2018 16:46 (five years ago) link

Damn, I listened to him a lot in my 20s and then sort of lost touch with his work as it jumped around stations/timeslots and I didn't want to pay for his work through his website. He would have been so perfect for a patreon-funded podcast, but I don't get the impression his stuff was ever made available through the itunes store, was it?

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Tuesday, 16 January 2018 17:21 (five years ago) link

Lots of Joe Frank stuff in the WFMU archives -- Irwin's been playing complete programs for a while.

Three Word Username, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 19:36 (five years ago) link

Yeah I feel like at some point years ago I had worked through everything WFMU had available at the time and then I just stopped checking. I also had a long period of time when I just didn't listen to long-form radio stuff at all so it wasn't on my radar.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Tuesday, 16 January 2018 19:52 (five years ago) link

Really sad. Apparently there's a documentary about him due out this year:


mick signals, Tuesday, 16 January 2018 20:04 (five years ago) link


Spencer Chow, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 00:07 (five years ago) link

FWIW, you can find all the shows in mp3 on slsk

Elvis Telecom, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 03:01 (five years ago) link


IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Wednesday, 17 January 2018 03:04 (five years ago) link

That film looks fantastic, can't wait


Whenever I hear a Karma-style show, I think that Frank must have known about ZBS' use of Ram Dass in the Jack Flanders shows from 1973 on

Brakhage, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 22:21 (five years ago) link

... er, in that Kornfield is used to the same effect in the Flanders shows

Brakhage, Wednesday, 17 January 2018 22:22 (five years ago) link

Maybe he hadn't heard ZBS, I had thought of Nordine as an influence too but Frank says nope in the Believer interview: 'I found it extremely annoying when somebody would say something like “You seem to be influenced by Ken Nordine.” And I didn’t even know who Ken Nordine was.'

Brakhage, Thursday, 18 January 2018 01:37 (five years ago) link

Maybe it’s too soon, but I really hope someone from the estate modernizes the availability of his work a little. From the website it seems like they’re still charging CD-era prices. Not saying they have to be free on Spotify but st least offer reasonably priced eps through the iTunes Store or something that lets me dl straight to my iPhone.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Thursday, 18 January 2018 01:59 (five years ago) link

New big piece on Frank in Slate

Brakhage, Friday, 19 January 2018 18:17 (five years ago) link

So WFMU archived Irwin's three-hour tribute but the "rights holder" made them take it down. It's sad to me -- this is a good time to be introducing/reintroducing people to his work but they make it so hard to access, with their geocities website where you can't even download to a mobile device.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Thursday, 1 February 2018 14:58 (five years ago) link

well, that's shit, i was going to listen to that later.

ice cream social justice (Dr Morbius), Thursday, 1 February 2018 15:09 (five years ago) link

slate article good. that difference between well known and 'famous'... everyone I knew thought his work was incredible.

KPFA ran his tape for a while on thursdays, the hour before Over The Edge (which was great while it lasted, gave people that extra hour to set up). These days KPFA runs it on sundays before Dean Suzuki's ambient show or Thomas Dimuzio's electroacoustic improv show. I ran his tape during the 'Work In Progress' years, wish I still had those cassettes.

Milton Parker, Thursday, 1 February 2018 18:32 (five years ago) link

I recorded the stream of Irwin's tribute. Msg me through ILXmail.

Elvis Telecom, Friday, 2 February 2018 06:05 (five years ago) link

Recently listened to Bible Salesman. That Can loop is unstoppable.

Elvis Telecom, Friday, 2 February 2018 06:09 (five years ago) link

Woman who seems to have been his partner is running a tribute fb page. Obviously it's way too soon, but maybe at some point down the road I'll write a message as a big fan gently suggesting they upgrade their listening options so a new generation can hear his work.

IF (Terrorist) Yes, Explain (man alive), Friday, 2 February 2018 17:42 (five years ago) link

nine months pass...

LA premier of the Joe Frank documentary is Dec. 1

Elvis Telecom, Friday, 2 November 2018 21:26 (five years ago) link

one year passes...

In the midst of a chronological relisten to all the Joe Frank programs. Finally discovered the source of this track from some of my favorite JF episodes, and I'm momentarily content.


Disgraced, committing sudoku (Sanpaku), Saturday, 19 September 2020 17:04 (three years ago) link

nine months pass...


Elvis Telecom, Thursday, 8 July 2021 05:07 (two years ago) link

one year passes...


Elvis Telecom, Monday, 19 December 2022 20:05 (eleven months ago) link

two months pass...

TIL, much of the first half of After Hours was lifted from this Joe Frank monologue (starts at 32:30)


Elvis Telecom, Friday, 24 February 2023 04:18 (nine months ago) link

eight months pass...


Radio's Prince of Darkness Rules the Freeways

Los Angeles

It's 7:30 p.m. and the freeway is bumper to bumper. Flipping the radio dial yields the usual mix of rock, Muzak and news. But then a soft, hypnotic male voice floats into the car. The voice is even and dreamlike. It sounds like a whisper directly into the ear:

"A dog will never be able to read Plato. A cat will never solve algebraic problems. Their intelligence binds them. It traps them. Why should we think we are any different? There are truths of which we shall remain unaware forever because we don't have the intelligence to grasp them. We are condemned to live in darkness…"

The voice, which continues along these lines for almost an hour, is that of Joe Frank, a radio personality who rapidly has become a cult figure in this sprawling city of freeways. The monologues and dramas on his program sound like a blend of philosophy texts, soap operas and Garrison Keillor. The shows are alternately dark, bizarre and very funny - but always hard to turn off.

In "Rent a Family," a single woman with two children talks about her loneliness and her decision to rent her family to a publishing executive. In another monologue, a man tells of being seduced by a woman who has only pretended to be deaf. Some of Mr. Frank's sagas give the impression that the radio accidentally has tuned into someone's phone line; the conversation seems far too intimate or bizarre to be on the air.

Other freeway riders, it turns out, also find the sagas disturbing. "This is incredibly depressing." says one friend who nevertheless insists on remaining in a parked car 20 minutes to listen to the end of a one-hour episode of "Rent a Family." A hospital administrator says, "They're so weird I turn them off. They remind me of the scary stories that used to be on the radio before television."

The man behind the stories lives in a small house in Santa Monica and operates out of the nearby basement studio of KCRW. a public radio station; his shows are broadcast in 13 other major cities including San Francisco, Chicago, Philadelphia and Minneapolis. A ruggedly handsome man of 48, he answers the door wearIng sweat pants and a T-shirt. Over cranberry juice in an austerely furnished living room, he explains how he wound up telling such peculiar tales on the radio.

"My life has been dark,"' says Mr. Frank, who explains that his family fled Nazi Germany and his father died when he was still a child. The family shoe business in New York went bankrupt. Other traumas included having to wear leg braces following an operation to correct clubfeet.

After working as a teacher of literature and philosophy at a Manhattan private high school, he got into radio more than a decade ago by hosting a late-night talk show on WBAI, a New York public radio station. "I talked a lot about relationships and obsessions of mine which had to do with death, alienation and ambivalence," he recalls matter of factly. He also freelanced as a radio writer and producer before joining KCRW two years ago.

All this gave him practice at making his voice hypnotic. "Before I went into radio I remember not liking my voice," he says. "I learned that the closer you are to the microphone the more Intimate it Is."

To gather material, Mr. Frank says he often pays people he meets socially to tell him true stories from their lives. He asked an actress if she ever had been Involved with someone she now despised. She had. So he told her to "imagine he's on the phone and go over the relationship."

In the resulting tape, entitled "Thank You, You're Beautiful," the woman berates her former lover for being shallow, selfish and vain. "You deserve everything that's coming to you and you're going to get it. Certainly from me," she says. It's like overhearing a woman breaking up with her boyfriend while you're waiting to use a pay phone. It's not Tennessee Wllliams - but it's hard not to listen.

The woman's monologue is interrupted at various points by Mr. Frank saying, "Thank you, you're beautiful, " a phrase that is followed by the sound of a crowd cheering. Mr. Frank also interjects absurdist phrases such as, "I'm sitting in a café in Paris, revolted by the roots of a chestnut tree," a reference to the novel "Nausea" by the late French author Jean-Paul Sartre.

Much of the time, Mr. Frank says, people's real-life stories aren't very interesting; the idea for "Rent a Family" came' from his own musings. Mr. Frank, who is single, says he found himself thinking, "Wouldn't it be great if I could have a family for a short period of time, then get out of it - and then bring it back?"

The saga begins with a monologue by a character named Eleanor, an out-of-work divorcee who notices an advertisement for a rent-a-family service. Her voice sounds pained and serious as she tells of going to the agency, filling out a 10-page application form and making a videotape with her two daughters for prospective renters. The next day the family has a taker, a publishing executive.

But as the saga continues, "Rent a Family" becomes like a soap opera for the insane. A date at the beach ends in disaster when the renter disappears with her two children. Subsequently Eleanor obsessively calls her ex-husband, Arthur, and his new wife, Kathy. and cries on the phone to them about her lonellness - despite their pleas that she stop calling. Each pathetic conversation Is preceded by the eerie sound of a long-distance phone number being dialed. At one point Eleanor begs Arthur and Kathy to let her become their housekeeper.

"He's gone too far with this one," says my traveling companion. At times, "Rent a Family" sounds all too real. But it's too much sobbing and desperation for the airwaves. Listening to it In the car Is like being stuck in a psychiatric ward with garrulous roommates.

Some of Mr. Frank's shows are lighter. For one live broadcast, he called three of his former girlfriends in New York in the middle of the night. After telling them they were on live radio, he asked them to sing along to the tune of "I Remember You." Only one didn't. And in a spoof of a radio talk show, Mr. Frank congratulates a piano player from the "Fast Piano Players League" for playing a piece of classical music In 58 seconds flat.

Even some of the darkest stories turn out to have amusing twists. In "Emergency Room," Mr. Frank uses tapes made in a Baltimore hospital emergency room that include cries of pain. Cut to the sound of waves, with Mr. Frank talking about how wonderful It Is to be alone In a beach house In Kurosawa, Japan.

"You drum your fingers on the bureau top and then you draw out the revolver and gaze at it. You put the barrel Into your mouth, close your lips on it - and take a bite. The chocolate breaks off and melts on your tongue. The Swiss guns are better than the Dutch… But you know you shouldn't eat them. You're a diabetic. If you go on this way you'll kill yourself."

Many of the sketches involve ruminations on loneliness, a state Mr. Frank finds conducive to working. "When I'm involved with someone, things become muddied," he explains. "There's a lot of static. I don't function and my energies are dissipated. Another person is a disturbance." But he insists his stories aren't depressing. "Most of what you hear on the radio Is banal, trivial and doesn't cut deeply," says Mr. Frank. "When you confront the nightmare you transcend it.

Elvis Telecom, Monday, 20 November 2023 00:50 (one week ago) link


It's that time of year again.

Chris L, Monday, 20 November 2023 02:29 (one week ago) link

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