Laughing Back - A Movie For Radio

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Laughing Back - A Movie For Radio [1]
WBAI And NPR Playhouse
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
58 minutes
Preceded by: Jewish Blues
Followed by: An American Hero Workshop

I work hard at my job.

Laughing Back - A Movie For Radio is a program produced by Joe Frank for NPR Options. It was originally broadcast November 29, 1978, and was released as a monthly premium at in December 2004.


This program features several Joe Frank stories. The announcer begins by comparing hearing Joe's work to watching a movie.

  • [0:52] "The Night Watchman": the first person account of a night watchman who rises through the ranks of a company by inviting bosses to dinner and burying them in the back yard, only to find himself invited to dinner by the new night watchman.
  • [7:55] "A Time On The Beach": life on a beach in Curaçao; a diabetic eats a chocolate gun.
  • [12:05] "Caldwell": a fitness nut who dies while climbing stairs in a blackout has an out of body experience. He travels down a long dark tunnel and emerges into a festive dinner party attended by dead family members. They do the carnival dance.
  • [17:26] "Isn't it true that we continue to strive all our lives in order to find peace and fulfillment ... life is not a game you can win, but a game that has no end, and all you do is die somewhere in the middle of it."
  • [25:41] "Long Island Memories": Joe's childhood in Long Island. A child is open to experiences: Lady bugs, frogs, turtles, butterflies, campfire, grandmother's hollow chocolate-filled cookies, being in the countryside with a dog, walking to meet his father's car on its return home. It's thirty years later, the adult has dulled senses. Joe runs out of gas in the country, experiences a vivid memory of childhood and imagines that his whole life has been a child's dream.
  • [33:59] "Beautiful Woman on Elevator": the often repeated experience of an awkward elevator ride beside attractive woman.
  • [53:54] "That was really wonderful, Alan - I've never heard it played quite that fast": the often repeated dispute between fastest piano players.


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

Shared material

  • "The Night Watchman" shares some text with Lies.
  • "A Time On The Beach" and "Caldwell" appear in Emergency Room.
  • The striving/fulfillment/futility essay appears at the end of He Hesitated.
  • We hear another reference to Joe walking out to meet his father (Freddy) in Karma Memories.
  • "Beautiful Woman on Elevator" is not the same material as the elevator encounter in Obsessions.
  • The fastest piano players dispute appears in Arena, Arena (Remix), and Emergency Room.


  • About 16 minutes of the program is a distinct "Cartoon For Radio" segment by Matt Calhoun
  • The background music to the elevator story ("Hard Work") is used often on Harry Shearer's Le Show.

External links