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Duplicity [1]
Original Broadcast Date
November 6, 2004
Joe Frank
Serious Monologue, Absurd Monologue, 57 minutes
Preceded by: Time's Arrow
Followed by: Bottle For A Headstone

Reisling meets a woman at a party.

Duplicity is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Online. It was originally presented at joefrank.com on November 6, 2004.


Riesling meets a beautiful woman at a party. He goes home with her. He fails to 'perform' in bed, is discouraged.

7:10: Riesling remembers the one successful love affair he had: 'hours of frantic, lubricious lovemaking until both of them, physically spent, would fall into a deep, profound, comatose sleep, sometimes waking days later. Always a bottle of Dom Perignon, an ashtray full of gold-tipped Russian cigarettes, mink underwear, paper slippers, feathered masks, and steamy, luxurious, two-hour-long showers when he'd wash her hair with peppermint soap and she'd give him a rectal infusion of chamomile tea, slightly sweetened.'

9:10: They go skating at the rink near Rockefeller Center at Christmas time, get injured in a catastrophic fall. In the ambulance on the way to the hospital, it crashes with a bus.[1] She's transported to heaven. Distraught, Riesling 'sails' around the world in a rowboat.[2]

14:30: 'Every time I see you, I can feel the hair on the back of my arms rise up like a great forest of black rubber penises. Let me nuzzle your naked breast, that little bald mountain, like a baboon's ass. Yes, eyes swollen shut by insect bites, let us walk hand in hand in the park where the students sit at the University of Outhouse.'

15:10: John Clayman, eating Froot Loops for breakfast, sees a picture of himself, aged 8, on the milk box, a lost child. He looks at himself, sees that he appears to be a child, wonders why he remembers all the life he's had since then: college, grad school, national guard, marriage, divorce, professor of physics at a community college in upstate New York, living with the disabled dean, making love to the dean's wife while the dean watches. He wakes from a dream about being an energy-being to find he's in the health club, on a treadmill. He ponders the nature of time. He realizes he's to old to bed his students any more. Disappointed with his life, he ditches his home and job, takes the next train out of town.

25:00: 'Wherever I go, I'm always there. I buy a single ticket to the movies, and who's sitting in my seat? Me. And as much as I would like, I can't send myself away in a fury, and there's no closet I can hide in without me being there in the first place. I've been berated and rebuked and denounced and humiliated by me, and I've been excoriated and insulted and harangued and beaten down and even lied to by myself. I've probably told myself more lies than I've told anyone.'

25:50: Clayman thinks about his kinship with the train's other passengers.

28:10: 'We thank thee, O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, who brought us out of Egypt and into Auschwitz. We thank thee for lice and pestilence, for cancer and other wasting diseases, for famine and genocide. We thank thee, O Lord, for those who lose control over their bladders and bowels, and for those who are crushed by the weight of depression. O Lord, our God, King of the Universe, let your heart and your arteries not be hardened against us, and let your heart not attack us. Last night I found myself genuflecting before a huge neon sign with rooms available for the night. I peered from the tent flap, beheld the desert, and on my hands and knees began to feel the pounding grains of sand.'

29:30: McKenzie, a 75-year-old veteran of WW2, attends a reconstruction of the battle of Okinawa by one of his comrades at the VFW. After he finishes, he denounces McKenzie as a cowardly shirker who played dead on the beach during the fighting. The VFW kicks him out. He goes home to find his wife has left and taken everything with her except his clothes. The next day he finds his bank account empty and his house foreclosed upon. He goes out to the highway, sticks out his thumb; a tractor-trailer, trying to stop for him, jack-knifes and runs him over.

36:40: 'A priest, a rabbi, and a hyena are riding on a train.' and have a ridiculous conversation.[3][4]

39:20: 2 Girl Scouts enter the train car of the priest, rabbi, and hyena. They're on their way to Duplicity to attend a convocation of Girl Scouts about 'Madame Bovary'.

40:50: A sufi enters their train car, whirls like a dervish, says, 'Golf in the kingdom, ampoule of pure light, children find cadaver, harlequin at mass, Eucharist on roller skate, flames engulf the chameleon, life of rapture death, in the dark, accidental pilgrim goes from cave painting to Ohio, from suspension bridge to martyrdom, from test tube to the unreflecting famous, an object lesson to the doubtful guest, amnesia recalls the preacher's boy, and flesh is untranslatable into English.'

43:00: 'If we assume that God is all-knowing and all-powerful, then is it not absurd to pray?' Joe questions the value of prayer.

45:00: A wealthy man panhandles on the street near his apartment, denounces the people who won't help him. At home that night he threatens a young woman who had an affair with his father, got him to sign a codicil to his will when he was near death that left her a large estate, with a suit.

54:40: 'What sort of examination could turn up so many negative findings? It's as though a semi-retired professional warlock were giving an opinion. I was on a train, passing through a bombed-out village. I could see doors torn from buildings, not a window left unbroken, with gaping holes in the walls, revealing rooms with unmade beds, toilets flung down into the street, where I could see the rotting carcasses of overturned, burnt-out automobiles and geysers of steam issuing from underground pipes, where, every so often, an explosion would send a manhole cover flipping like a coin into the air, to come clanging down onto the pavement. And everywhere, the remains of bloated, dead bodies. And yet, I was sitting very comfortably in a first-class compartment on the train, gazing out the window, a glass of brandy, sweetened peanuts, and a plate of caviar and cheese on a tray before me, when my cell phone rang. And I flipped it open and heard a woman's voice. "Please, you're the only one left, the only one who can help." And I said, "Who is this?" And she said, "This is no time for games, for foolishness. You know exactly who this is. I'm waiting on the platform at Mapleton. I'll be wearing a yellow cardigan, a plaid skirt, rubber sandals, and a swastika armband." I put the phone back in my breast pocket and could still hear her voice, tinny and muffled.'

Legacy Synopsis

- Riesling:

  • Riesling accompanies the woman to her place, and they end up in her bed.
  • He finds himself unable to perform sexually. Metaphors about a bad day at Kennedy Space Center, the rocket deflating.
  • They eventually give up and she reassures him, his confidence gone.
  • He considers possible excuses for his lack of performance.
  • They watch TV, but there's nothing on but various types of sexual material.
  • He imagines her making love to others, including a friend of his.
  • The next morning he remembers his one passionate fling.
    • They met on the Internet. She occasionally came to visit him, and they had a couple of passionate hotel trysts.
    • Memories of skating together at Rockefeller Center. They ice dance like no one has ever seen: the crowd is transfixed. Suddenly they crash horribly, causing injuries and mayhem.
    • While rushing them to the hospital, the ambulance crashes.
    • She claims to see Jesus, and levitates heavenward, disappearing forever into the sky.
    • The wedding is cancelled. Despondent, he travels around the world in a rowboat, with an absurd collection of items.

- Professor Clayman:

  • Professor John Clayman is surprised to see himself pictured as a missing child on a milk carton. Suddenly he is eight again and wonders what is happening.
    • Is he eight, or is he a University Professor living in the home of the Dean, who insists on being allowed to watch as Clayman makes love to his wife?
    • A stream-of-consciousness monologuefollows which is difficult to characterize. "Life is merely the punchline of a joke told backwards."
  • Clayman awakens on a treadmill in a gym in front of a bank of televisions. He develops a twisted view of the goings on in the gym.
  • Later he's at the podium, giving a lecture. He has an out-of-body experience and fixates on a student.
  • He knows he is no longer attractive to his young college students: "A lifetime of living in a world of gravity has done something unspeakable to his nose."
  • Clayman considers his life and flees on the next train.


  • McKenzie is a 70 year old veteran and frequently hangs out at the local VFW hall.
  • Price served with him and appears one day to reenact a battle they served in together.
  • Price accuses him of being a coward and McKenzie is expelled from the VFW. He's glad to be rid of them.
  • He gets home and absolutely everything is gone, down to the mouldings on the doors, not to mention his wife. He's excited at the opportunity to start anew.
  • Later, his house is forclosed on and fenced off.
  • He wanders down the road, determined to start a new life.
  • He tries to hitch a ride and is killed by a semi which loses control trying to pick him up.

- The Priest, The Rabbi and the Hyena:

  • This section begins as though it is a joke, but turns into a story in which the three travel on a train with some Girl Scouts to a place called Duplicity.
  • The absurdity of prayer, the foolishness of faith.
- The Panhandler:
  • A panhandler at a traffic light rants and raves at motorists, who try to ignore him.
  • Eventually he returns to his luxurious home for a cigar and a snifter of cognac.
  • He receives a lovely visitor. They watch the city together: children playing (and making various objectionable sounds), a vicious mugging.
  • They discuss her affair with his father, who left her everything in a last-minute alteration of his will before his death. He assures her that he and his family will stop at nothing to contest the altered will.
  • The next day he returns to work as a panhandler, yelling at motorists from his street corner.
  • A final brief story: touring a wrecked city on a train.



  1. The ambulance in Love Is crashed too.
  2. This isn't sailing, of course. People have rowed around the world.
  3. John LaFarge was a prominent Jesuit priest in New York City contemporary with LaGuardia.
  4. There was a Lafayette Theatre in Harlem