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Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Lester Nafzger, Julie Renick, Joe Frank
Scripted Actors, Telephone, Mock Interview, 55 minutes
Preceded by: Sleep
Followed by: The More I Know You

"A month ago I visited my mother in Columbus Ohio."

Performer is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1989.


Lester Nafzger tells of visiting his mother in Columbus, Ohio when she was 81.[1] She and Lester argue about the existence of hypnosis, which she rejects but Lester accepts, gets irreconcilably mad with him.

3:40: Nafzger tells of his belief that if one sees 12 babies in arms 12 days of good luck will follow.

5:50: Nafzger tells of meeting his little brother Dickie for the first time when he's 3. It was the first of 26 ‘life reference points’ he's always remembered.[2]

12:10: Joe, speaking for the first time, asks if there are other events that didn't make the list. Nafzger mentions an auto accident and discovering that he had the power to manipulate Dickie.

14:20: Joe points out that #21 was 2 songs Nafzger wrote for his new-born daughter, but he sang only one. They talk about this.

15:30: They talk about today's weather.

16:10: Nafzger says he likes to go to Barlow's (a bar). He stands between a tall guy and a short guy one day, which inspires him to list the heights of people he knows.

19:10: Nafzger performs his theatre piece about looking for Jerry Rickshaw (a name he made up). No one knows him. They tell him to go away.[3]

22:30: Joe and Nafzger talk about what he wears when he performs.

23:30: Nafzger performs, ‘Where's Charlotte?’ which sounds like a father trying to get his young daughter to come out of hiding.

24:20: Joe says that he performed this at a club in Boca Raton. Nafzger says that it was after the club closed.

25:00: They talk about audience response.

25:50: Joe introduces his next piece, ‘My Teeth Are So Much Uglier Than Yours’, first performed in Stockholm with the Miles Davis Quintet (they're all friends of his).

26:30: Nafzger performs ‘My Teeth Are So Much Uglier Than Yours’ - a man morbidly self-conscious about his teeth.

28:20: They talk about the nature of his work.

29:30: He performs ‘Missing Barbara’, first performed in 1987 at Soldier Field during halftime of a Bears-Vikings game. He doesn't know that anyone noticed

34:10: He performs ‘Cartoon’ - 2 rude guys ogle women at a bar.

36:00: He performs ‘Big band’: he's an emcee at a small club in upstate New York.[4] Someone tells him that his mother has just died (though it wasn't true). The band's vocalist hasn't shown. He has to make patter in his absence. He mentions the recent death of his mother repeatedly.

40:00: He tells of Boogie Boys, musicians who join bands to sabotage their performances.

42:30: He tells of seeing a babe in arms in the town park that morning. (He lives in Woodstock.)

43:00: His furnace room shares a wall with a movie theatre. They didn't make money showing art-house or mainstream films so they switched to porn. He notices a hole in the wall of the furnace room, patches it, then notices many more holes and cracks, spends months sleeping on a cot in the furnace room the better to patch them.

51:00: He lists the weights of people.

Legacy Synopsis
  • Lester Nafzger, on the phone, talking about his argumentative mother, 81. They have a tremendous dispute over hypnotism.
  • Superstition: counting 12 babies in arms for 12 days of good luck. Then, the 13th day.
  • Lester tells us his 26 (and counting) definitive Life Reference Points, or 'linchpins', of his existence. Events that didn't make the list.
  • Lester seems to know the height of everyone he knows. He's a numbers guy.
  • Performances: looking for Jerry Rickshaw. Joe and Lester discuss the performance. What Jerry Rickshaw means to Lester.
  • Where's Charlotte.
  • My Teeth Are So Much Uglier Than Yours.
  • Discussion of the role of an artist.
  • Performances: Missing Barbara. Cartoon. Big Band.
  • Lester describes the boogie boys: musical saboteurs.
  • A serene mother-and-baby scene.
  • Lester tells of his struggle to close the nearly 100 holes in the poorly-built wall connecting his furnace room to a porno theater next door. Then we hear audio from a porn movie.
  • Lester recites the weight of everyone he knows.


Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "With Lester Nafzger, Julie Renick, and Joe Frank. Recorded by Bob Carlson and Jeff Sykes, and mixed by Jeff Sykes. Special thanks to Ariana Morgenstern."


External links


  1. She was born in 1907 or 1908, so this would be 1988/9.
  2. He says he has 26 but lists only 25.
  3. One of the voices could be a woman's; Julie Renick is the only woman in the cast.
  4. He uses the name Lester Ainsley, which he also uses in the fast-piano segment of other shows and as the guy swallowed by a whale in A Landing Strip In The Jungle