The Firesign Theatre
The Firesign Theatre is an American comedy troupe consisting of Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Philip Proctor.
Their brand of surrealistic humor is best known through their record albums, which acquired an enthusiastic following in the late 1960s and early 1970s.The troupe began as live radio performers in Los Angeles on radio stations KPPC-FM and KPFK during the mid-1960s.The group's name stems in part from astrology, because the membership encompasses all three "fire signs": Aries (Austin), Leo (Proctor), and Sagittarius (Bergman and Ossman).StyleThe Firesign Theatre employs a stream of consciousness style that includes direct references to movies, radio, TV, political figures, and other cultural sources, intermingled with sound effects and bits of music.
The resulting stories — including the theft of a high school, a fair of clowns and holograms and aliens who use hemp smoking to turn people into crows — border on psychedelia, an effect intensified by the frequent appearance of mock "advertisements" satirizing real products.The Firesign approach to comedy was strongly influenced by The Goon Show.
All four Firesign members have spoken of their admiration for this show.
Said Ossman:While their stream of consciousness style has the feel of improvisational comedy, most of the material is tightly scripted and memorized.
The group's writing method demands the consent of all four members before a line can be included.
Much of their work (including all of their Columbia LPs, now on CD) has been copyrighted under the name "4 or 5 Krazy Guys."Other projectsIn September 1967, The Firesign Theatre performed an adaptation of Jorge Luis Borges' short story "La Muerte y La Brujula" ("Death and the Compass") on Radio Free Oz.In 1969, they created a number of improvised television commercials for Jack Poet Volkswagen in Highland Park, California, with the characters of Christian Cyborg (Peter Bergman), Coco Lewis (Philip Proctor), Bob Chicken (Phil Austin), and Tony Gomez (David Ossman).Between September 9, 1970 and February 17, 1971, they performed a one-hour live series, produced by Bill McIntyre, on radio station KPFK in Los Angeles titled Dear Friends.
These live programs were recorded and then edited into slightly shorter shows which were syndicated to radio stations across the country on 12-inch LPs.
The group later collected the best segments from the series for their fifth record, Dear Friends.In 1972 and 1974, Straight Arrow Press, Rolling Stone's book publishing arm, published two books authored by the Firesign Theatre.
These books, The Firesign Theatre's Big Book Of Plays and The Firesign Theatre's Big Mystery Joke Book, feature background information, satirical introductions and parodic histories, as well as transcripts from their first seven albums.
Apocalypse Papers, also authored by the group and published by a small press, was limited to an edition of only 500 copies.In 1996, Peter Bergman began placing radio-show-like comedy sound bites on his own Internet-based comedy radio station, www.rfo.net.
"The show will be the Internet's funny bone," Bergman said.In 1996, a computer game written by Peter Bergman, Pyst, a parody of the game Myst, was released by Parroty Interactive.In 2008, the Firesign Theatre released a four-CD boxed set based on their most famous character, Nick Danger "Third Eye." It was compiled from various radio shows, albums and fan recordings that were sent in via their website.The group plans to reissue all of their past Firesign albums with new bonus material.
The members are asking fans to submit any high-quality audio and video clips to their website.FilmsThe group co-wrote the screenplay to the comedy western, Zachariah, released in 1971.
The film was inspired by the novel Siddhartha by Hermann Hesse.The movie "J-men Forever" was made by Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman in 1979.
The film is a compilation of Republic Science Fiction serial clips with new dialogue voiced over.The movie Americathon (1979) was based on a sketch created by Phil Proctor and Peter Bergman.Later workDuring the mid-1970s, members of the group mostly went in separate directions.
Firesign productions continued sporadically, but Proctor and Bergman also performed as a duo, and Austin and Ossman worked individually and together in a few stage shows and most notably in the writing and production of In the Next World, You're on Your Own.
In the mid-1980s, Ossman temporarily left the group to produce shows for National Public Radio.Their recordings through 1975 were originally released by Columbia Records.The Firesign Theatre's most recent performances were a series of live performances in December 2011.
They claimed to be the longest surviving group from the "Classic rock" era to still be intact with the original members (at the time of the claim in 2011, 45 years).Peter Bergman died on March 9, 2012, from complications involving leukemia.