Joe Frank, who stretched the boundaries of radio storytelling with mind-bending, absurdist monologues often fueled by his neuroses and his dark view of the world, died on Monday in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 79.
His wife, Michal Story, said the cause was cancer.
Delivered in a measured baritone, Mr. Frank’s monologues — tragic, philosophical and sometimes confessional excursions that trod the line between fact and fiction — brought listeners into unusual territory. Like a dinner party with A-list dictators and serial killers at which Pol Pot and Hitler debate the merits of pleated pants.
Or onto a boardwalk with penguins “sitting on benches in outdoor cafes, drinking lattes,” who are attacked by killer whales in a well-planned pincer movement, who are themselves attacked by polar bears “floating toward the shore on icebergs fitted with large sails and small outboard motors.” He concluded: “It’s a massacre. And that’s life. Penguins eaten by killer whales who are devoured by polar bears.”
Mr. Frank spent most of his career at KCRW, a public radio station in Santa Monica, Calif., which gave him the freedom to say what he pleased in his monologues and the multicharacter improvised narratives he directed.