Reality Check

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Reality Check
Original Broadcast Date
Gideon Brower, Joe Frank
Narrative Monologue, 26 minutes
Preceded by: A Hollywood True Story
Followed by: A Life Well Lived

I've been driving cross-country.

Reality Check is a radio program produced by Joe Frank and broadcast on KCRW's UnFictional Series. It originally aired on June 21, 2013.


2:00: Joe's driving cross-country. Tired in the afternoon, he checks into a motel, goes to bed, wakes up refreshed, leaves, is alarmed to see the sun setting. He figures out he slept only 3 hours.[1] Leaving a gas station, he sees his parents, homeless and impoverished, who beg from him. Then Joe wakes up: he's been asleep in a hotel. He turns on the TV, watches an old movie.

4:10: An actor, Gideon Brower, reënacts a scene from 'The Philadelphia Story', playing both parts.[2]

5:10: 'Life is going to a crowded restaurant on your first date with a woman you've admired for years…' After waiting an hour, Joe is pressed into service in the kitchen, his date is taken to a slave ship and brothel.

6:10: 'Life is strolling along a boardwalk filled with penguins, sitting on benches at outdoor cafes, drinking lattes, and talking and laughing….' Killer whales eat them, then polar bears tear the whales open, eat the penguins out of their stomachs.

7:50: Joe describes a surreal execution.

8:50: 'Life is entering a hotel suite with a beautiful woman you met in the bar downstairs.' but her father is violent and may have followed them.

9:50: 'Life is a woman opening a cabinet in a kitchenette to look for a non-dairy creamer when her boss taps her on the shoulder.' The boss apologizes for inappropriate touching, gives her one of Edward Teller's contact lenses.

10:50: 'Life is two burglars breaking into your house…' Joe tries to be cool, but they beat him up anyway.

11:30: 'Life is being a professor of Asian Studies, carrying on an affair with the wife of the dean of students. A man who was tragically paralyzed in an automobile accident at an intersection…'[3]

13:00: 'Life grabs you by the throat…' and wrestles with you.

13:20: 'Life is standing by the bed of your 90-year-old mother, as she puts her finger in her mouth, digs into a crevice between her teeth, pulls out a fragment of food, looks at it dangling at the end of her finger, flicks it on the floor, and reaches out to hold your hand while watching the Turner Classics movie channel.'

14:00: An actor, Gideon Brower, reënacts a scene from 'It happened one night'.[2]

16:20: Joe, stuck in traffic, unhappy with life, imagines killing himself, then sees a wheelchair-bound man who's much worse off, then homeless people who have it worse.

18:00: Joe describes the new shopping mall, its unusual attractions.

20:00: Joe describes Aztecs' human sacrifices, says they were done to prevent war with Nazis.

21:30: Joe's driving on the freeway. A pretty woman in a huge SUV, talking on her cellphone, swerves, knocking him off the road, rolling over, crashing into an electronics store.

22:40: More reënactment of 'It happened one night'.[2]

23:50: Joe describes a series of surreal events: first in a hotel's formal dining room, then a movie at a nearby mall, then in a department store. He tells us how he doesn't want to be found dead, what kind of woman he needs. Jesus, dressed as a highway patrolman, stops him on the San Diego Freeway, sends him to heaven.

Legacy Synopsis

What is reality? What is the meaning of life? Evil, madness, suffering and death are explored in this delightfully whimsical program by Joe Frank. Reality Check addresses the most vexing questions concerning the human condition in a resigned, yet high-spirited way that will leave listeners heartened and uplifted. This program is for philosophically inclined audiences only.


Additional credits

External links


  1. He tells a similar story in God Only Knows.
  2. 2.0 2.1 2.2 This originally appeared in Fire.
  3. Joe tells a similar story in Duplicity.