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Aaron Franz joins us to discuss the 2002 biopic Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, which tells the story of game show producer and host Chuck Barris.  Barris claims that while becoming a TV star he was recruited by and worked for the CIA as an assassin, killing a total of 33 people.  In this episode we analyse this claim, which has been dismissed by the Agency as a ludicrous fantasy.  We examine Barris’ true life history,  focusing in on his marriage to Lyn Levy – the daughter of one of the founders of CBS – and his incredibly selfish relationship with their daughter Della.  None of this appears in the film so taking this into account we consider whether Barris was a CIA assassin, a psychopathic fabricator or an emotionally warped narcissist (or all of these things rolled into one).  If Barris truly was a CIA agent then what was his job?  Was he an assassin, or did they employ him to ‘slay the audience’ by developing the prototypes for reality TV?

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind is also notable for being George Clooney’s directorial debut, and a production that languished in development hell for years before he became involved and began pulling strings to ensure the film got made.  We consider whether the movie was one of Clooney’s attempts to gain the attention and approval of the CIA, and whether he too thought that Barris’ TV career was the real mission for the Agency.  We examine Clooney’s self-appointed role as Chuck’s ‘defence lawyer’, his obsession with goats and why he employed theatrical visual tricks throughout the production.  We round off comparing Confessions of a Dangerous Mind to The Recruit, as both films show The Farm (the CIA’s semi-secret agent training facility) and portray the protagonist being inducted and initiated into that covert world.


Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (film)

Confessions of a Dangerous Mind (book)

The Real Chuck Barris

Chuck Barris: Is is True?

Broarcast Pioneers: Leon Levy

William Paley Obituary

Della Barris

Lynne Levy Equestrians

Chuck Barris ‘My Life on the Edge’

The Drexel Interview: Chuck Barris


  • jason says:

    you guys are the best. the chuck barris’ film is really unbelievable. it’s a deeply misanthropic movie. a couple of points and questions: the movie none too subtly suggests that success in entertainment is the same thing as killing and the rejection of love. repeatedly.

    clooney also flat out states that psychopaths are born (barris strangling his sister in the womb) and bred. but the breeding part comes from confused gender identity, barris’ mom dressing him up and making him play as a girl. this plays into the relation of gender ambivalence & theatricality/performance, an old, old notion. however, in modern pop culture, esp. film, gender ambivalence/confusion/repression features prominently in the psyche of serial killers, incl. barris. Think Hitchcock’s Rope and Psycho. Or pat bateman in american psycho. Hannibal Lector. John Leguizamo’s character in the spike lee son of sam turd. undoubtedly numerous others i can’t think of.

    this meme of gender confusion/sexual repression is being trotted out in re the Omar Mateen killings in Orlando. I’m not saying there’s nothing, zero, to this, but “repressed fags” usually off themselves, not crowds of people. I am suggesting that more significant than Mateen’s sexuality is his extensive contacts w/the forces of the police state, the FBI, and the focus on Mateen’s sexuality is a gigantic, orchestrated distraction. and that the LGBTQX folks are once again being victimized, sacrificed, thru the meme of the “scary homo.”

    anyway, best wishes.

  • “Scary homo” is more than a “meme”: Looks like someone needs to Google “Luka Magnotta” “Jeffrey Dahmer” and “John Wayne Gacy”

    • jason says:

      yes, sometimes a cigar is a penis. ask bill clinton. wiki has a long list of serial killers. you might rethink your comment by looking at it. in any case, the point was about mateen’s relation w/the security state. chris kyle killed lots of people. but don’t you worry: he was all man.