I was a child, it was late at night, I couldn't sleep.

Work In Progress
Original Broadcast Date
Joe Frank
Absurd Monologue, Singing, 53 minutes
Preceded by: Islands
Followed by: Performer

Sleep is a program Joe Frank produced as part of the series Work In Progress. It was originally broadcast in 1988.


Joe recalls a childhood memory, he in a nightgown, holding a candle in a dish,[1] walks down the staircase, sees a fancy dress ball, dancing to a waltz orchestra. 'It looked like a turn of the century fin de siecle affair, a diplomatic ball, or perhaps a gala evening in a high-class brothel.'

4:00: The musicians stop playing but the people keep dancing. Joe notices a large swing in the middle of the room, a man and a woman swinging in it. A lady takes Joe into the center of the room, talks about him in a 'Germanic Slavic language' he doesn't understand. The dancers are now sitting in the steeply-tiered seats of a lecture hall, watching. A draft blows out Joe's candle, darkening the room. A shot rings out. When others light candles, they see the lady has been shot in the head; she holds something in her hand. A man who claims to be a doctor examines her, surreptitiously takes the thing from her hand. A man who acts like a detective enters the room, questions Joe. The doctor ends up dead on the side of the room. Joe falls to the floor, paralyzed. The detective takes his pulse. He thinks Joe's dead.

9:00: Joe describes making trouble in school: saying the vaccines they are going to get will be shots in the eyeball, placing a roller skate at the top of the stairs Natalie falls on, severing the Hofstadter's brake cables, stealing the school's PA system, compulsive borrowing ('a cigarette, a shirt, the cover for a card table, plastic bags, plumbing fixtures, coat hangers, catheters, eye cups, detachable collars, sets of formal studs, poultry shears, Mylanta bottles,'), dropping lawn statuary from overpasses onto cars, stealing lunch money from divinity students, robbing graves, recycling medical supplies.

12:00: 'And now I own a huge publishing empire, radio and television stations, railroads, rental car agencies, immense tracts of real estate in the southwest, food manufacturing concerns.…' Joe describes his vast businesses. He abducts teenagers to force them into show business, blackmails people for their shameful acts.

14:50: He calls upon god but finds him absent, speculates on where he could be.

17:00: `Hey, honey, what's that hanging off the wall.
`It sure smells funny and it's eight feet tall.
`I got me a gun, but don't be afraid - I just have it for protection.[2]

`Oh night, great shade that covers one side of the world.

`Oh lovers, deep in your passion, let your cries not reach my ears, lest I be made more wistful.
`Oh dreamers, sleepers, children of Morpheus, wanderers among the great plains of that other world, the place where those who are dead are alive.
`Oh deep purple.

`I know a man who, having lost his telephone service because of an astronomical, unpaid bill, haunts a telephone booth with a shopping bag full of quarters.
`There is no way to smile from the back of my head, and yet I persist.
Girl: `Hi, how are you? How you doing? Having a good time?
(Joe coughs.)

19:10: `Hey honey, in the closet area, close the door.
`I don't want to see you anymore.
`Let my fingers do the walking, let my eyeballs rest.
`We'll snuggle by the golf clubs, you know I'm the best.
`Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep.
`If I should die before I wake, I pray the Lord my soul to take.
`God bless mommy and daddy.'[2]
(Laughing - the girl?)

20:40: 'I have danced spinning madly among the sacred cowgirls. I have spun in wide circles encompassing all of human existence, stars spinning from my fingertips as I move through space in great French curves of ecstasy. I have danced with death. I have jitterbugged with Baryshnikov. I have held tightly in my arms in a highly-erotic waltz the long-dead body of Marie Antoinette. I have danced a stately minuet among the mannequins of a long-ago closed department store. I have won the limbo contest at the Vatican.'[3]

21:10: Joe tells us all he's lost.

22:00: 'In overcoming depression, the first rule is be happy. But how? Well, first, plant hedgerows. Attend as many circumcisions as possible. Wax all surfaces. Buy a set of impossibly-small dinnerware and throw a huge party. And go for a long, long drive.'

23:00: Joe delivers an ode to the highway.

30:20: Joe says he's an insomniac, tells us all the things he's done to get to sleep. Watching the sex channel at 1:30 AM he calls a service that advertises perfect partners. He describes an impossible woman. Instead 'an overweight heavily made-up middle-aged woman with a kerchief pulled over her head, glasses askew, the smell of cheap bourbon on her breath, her teeth capped.' arrives. Joe complains. They make love anyway, fall in love, get married immediately. They adopt destitute children overseas, send them inappropriate gifts.

44:30: 'My beautiful life with Maureen ends when, tragically, while she's leaning over a mechanized potato peeler that we bought at a garage sale, her housecoat is pulled into the rotating knives, and she follows, sliced into the shape of julienne potatoes. Placed in the flash freezer, she becomes forever icons of my lost love.'

45:20: Joe tells us all the things he's seen, 'the glory of the coming of our Lord', 'Stephen Foster's ghost', 'tickertape parades', 'legions of saffron-robed Buddhist monks', 'entire highways locked in gridded immobility'…

47:50: A childish voice scat sings to piano and drum, tells someone how much she (he?) hates him/her.

Legacy Synopsis
  • Scenes from a fancy party: Joe can only look downwards, he is a specimen in a lecture hall, people begin dying.
  • Joe as a childhood troublemaker.
  • Compulsive borrowing, theft.
  • Grave robbing, cornering the market on ball point pens and personal lubricants, creating allies through blackmail.
  • First person address to God.
  • Rhythmic humming / coughing, etc.
  • How to be happy.
  • Ode to the highway.
  • Dancing among the sacred cowgirls.
  • Joe hires a call-girl from a TV advert.
  • "I have seen. . . " monologue.
  • Rhythmic singing in a child's voice.


Additional credits

The original broadcast credits state: "Recorded by Bob Carlson and Jeff Sykes, and mixed by Jeff Sykes. Sleep was created in collaboration with Arthur Miller and David Rapkin."


  1. this reminds me of an old Fisk tire ad
  2. 2.0 2.1 Joe re-uses this in Blues Singer and Goodbye.
  3. Joe re-uses this in Blues Singer and Predator.