Iceland (Part 1)

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Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Absurd Monologue, Narrative Monologue, Absurd Lists, 51 / 55 minutes
Preceded by: I'm Not Crazy
Followed by: Iceland (Part 2)

Lila always carries a big purse, more of a bag than a purse really.

Iceland is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1990.


The first 9 minutes is about Joe's relationship with Lila and her relationship with Professor Vogel. The rest is unrelated to that or Iceland, despite the title.

Joe tells of his relationship with his girlfriend, Lila, particularly what he dislikes: her huge purse which contains lots of stuff - she has to dump it all out to find what she's looking for; she's fussy in restaurants; has poor table manners; she loses things at the movie theatre, insists on searching while the movie plays.

She mistakenly gives Joe a letter from her mentor, Professor Vogel, who lives in Iceland, who is dying. He promises his estate to Lila if she'll visit once more before he dies. He describes their sexual relationship. After that Joe continues to read his letters to her, which describe their 'nights of passion'. He finds out she's visited him when she has told Joe she's at a conference.

9:10: Laughter, forced and languid at first, gets a little more convincing. (I think I hear 2 men and 1 woman.)

12:20: Joe says that we've come to the end, describes the disasters which will come: 'earthquakes, rock storms, lightning and thunderbolts. Wild animals will fall from the sky, the seas will boil, sidewalks will melt, blood and mucus will spurt from the taps as though some great aorta had begun pumping these fluids through the vascular system of the city's infrastructure…' Then he asks what we're going to do about it.

16:10: 'Would you still love me If I were somebody else? Would you be me for a day and still love you? And if I were you, would I be comfortable with me loving you?'

16:30: Joe describes the scene in 'Revolutionary Plaza, Buenos Aires, January.' People throw paper into the street. 2 women approach him, say they are student anthropologists, want to examine him at their place.

18:30: 'Puerto Madryn, winter': Joe's riding a bus. The transmission fails. The passengers have to get out and push.

19:20: Joe describes riding the people-mover at Dallas-Fort Worth airport. Medical technicians carry travelers on gurneys.

20:10: Joe flies over the Tanganyika Game Reserve in a hot air balloon. The pilot is drunk and erratic. The other passenger is a good-humored nun.

21:20: Joe describes his time in Rio de Janeiro, dancing the samba, wearing an elaborate costume.

22:10: Joe's in Hotel Oriental, Bangkok, watches a show in the bar with a singer (a 'southeast Asian princess') and drag-queen pianist. Later, while making love to the singer, he sees the pianist on the street, beaten up.

25:30: Joe says that truth is hard to find, then speculates about its nature.

28:10: Thus, 'The Enlightenment itself marks the beginning of the downfall of Western society.' Joe wonders if we should stop pursuing truth.

31:00: Joe complains about the drones he uses in the background. He says dentists and surgeons use it as anaesthesia, insomniacs to go to sleep. He compares it to 'a mantra, or a catechism, or a prayer.'

33:10: Joe says he considers his programs spiritual, asks for listeners to donate to support them, describes all the things he can use personally, describes his living situation (in a cardboard box on Wilshire.)

35:00: Joe asks where his best work is: behind, before, or below him.

36:00: The laughers from 9:10 return.

38:10: Joe asks to compare pairs of people, the first materially wealthy, the second miserably poor, and say which is happier.

44:10: Joe tells us that his shows are terrible, that the last 10 minutes of this one have been drivel, asks the listeners to get him off the air, ramifies what's wrong with him. Then he says he's ashamed to have listeners. He tells us he steals all his material.

The remainder of this material was added to a later version:

49:20: Joe is fascinated by a woman he sees, but can't place where he met her. After considering the possibilities, he asks her; she doesn't recognize him. Joe bumps into a waiter carrying a huge tray of champagne glasses. Trying to catch his balance, he briefly dances a tango, then falls. The room applauds.

52:30: Joe plants suspicious packages at the airport then calls in a bomb threat, enjoys resultant bedlam.

53:30: 'Lying in a hay wagon in Germany, rolling along a moonlit country road, I gaze across a field at a darkened farmhouse window, and see a naked woman standing in a tin bathtub, holding a light bulb in one hand, and reaching for a socket dangling from a frayed wire.' (sound of electrocution)

54:20: 'I gaze out the window at the traffic on 8th Avenue. Silent, still on the bed, his mouth open, a small pool of saliva collecting on the pillow, Boris lies motionless. Then he begins to moan, and pukes up a handful of pills he swallowed. Time to go to the telephone. How wearying. I look at my watch.'

Legacy Synopsis

A description of Lila; her big purse, losing things, behavior in a movie theater and restaurant. Joe finds Professor Vogel's love letters to Lila. Rhythmic laughter in many voices. We're on the brink of social collapse, religions are crumbling, apes dressed as holy men. "Would you still love me if I were someone else?" Travel notes: flying paper at a celebration in Buenos Aires, being picked up by sister anthropologist; pushing a broken down bus through a poor countryside; an airport conveyor belt; a balloon safari with a nude English colonel and a licentious nun; climbing to the Rio statue wearing a party mask; scene in a Thai bar, sex with a singer while a piano playing queen suffers a breakdown. The search for truth, the nature of truth, "tailors of truth," truth as an infection, we should walk away from truth. Joe criticizes the music in his own show. Joe's program as a religious experience and a call for donations. Word play on whether Joe should get behind his work. More rhythmic laughter. Who is happier: a rich old man or a beggar, a rich young man or a slum dweller parolee, an aristocratic lady or a homeless woman. Joe accuses himself of saying nonsense, invites our wrath. He pines for the good old programs, begs us to end his show, admits to plagiarizing all his ideas.


This is an incomplete record of the music in this program. If you can add more information, please do.

Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "Performed by Joe Frank, and created in collaboration with David Rapkin and Arthur Miller. Mixing engineer: Theo Mondle. Special thanks to Ariana Morgenstern, Kathleen Griffin, and Sheila Bjornlie."


  • The version of this program currently available on is the original one; a longer version was distributed.


  1. Online music services mislabel this track "Fragrance".
  2. 2.0 2.1 Joe added music to several of his shows when they were rebroadcast or digitized. The updated versions are usually available at