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JOE FRANK,
1938-2018

Writer, storyteller and radio artist Joe Frank, whose monologues would inspire radio programs such This American Life and UnFictional, not to mention countless podcasts, died Tuesday in Los Angeles. He was 79.

Fellow radio artist Harry Shearer announced Frank’s passing on Twitter, writing “the great radio artist of our time has passed away. You will never hear anybody smarter, darker, funnier than Joe Frank.”

Frank had been hospitalized since October, battling colon cancer among other illnesses over the last two years.

Frank worked in radio for 30 years, first at WBAI in New York beginning in 1977 and then at KCRW in Santa Monica. His programs were dark, ironic and often absurd; he spoke about troubled relationships in his own life, death, religion and the meaning of life, using noir-ish descriptions in his weather-beaten, stoic voice that sounded like midnight on a moonless night in the woods. His use of recorded phone calls and music would be adopted by multiple radio story series.

Frank’s first paying job in radio came in 1978 as weekend co-anchor of NPR’s All Things Considered in Washington, D.C. During his eight years there, he wrote and performed 18 dramas for NPR Playhouse.

Frank moved to KCRW in 1986 and produced the weekly hourlong Joe Frank: Work In Progress. His shows there continued until 2002 under the titles In The Dark, Somewhere out There and The Other Side. His shows continue to be broadcast on multiple public radio stations.

Over the last five years, Frank occasionally produced half-hour shows for KCRW's UnFictional.

He did his first one-man show in March 1989 at L.A.’s Museum Of Contemporary Art and in the 2000s, performed live at South Coast Rep, Largo and McCabe’s in Southern California and the Steppenwolf Theater in Chicago.

A documentary on Frank, Joe Frank: Somewhere Out There, was recently finished and is looking to play film festivals this year.

 

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