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This is an excerpt from the 1998 Press release:
First off, it's not a theatre at all-- at least it doesn't have four walls -- but the fiery foursome that created it: Phil Austin (Aries), Phil Proctor (Leo), and Peter Bergman and David Ossman (Saggittarians), have managed to make theatre wherever they go and over the years they have sold between over four million albums. Indeed, this year, they were chosen among the"Fifty Greatest Acts of All Time" by Entertainment Magazine.
Firesign first became widely known in 1966 at L.A.'s listener-supported KPFK (where Austin and Ossman were on staff), and when Proctor came West with the musical The Amorous Flea they started performing together on Peter "The Wiz" Bergman's Radio Free Oz, rapidly evolving from doing put-ons and live original half-hour comic plays before ecstatic crowds into the multi-media production and performance entitity we know today.
For the next
three decades, The Firesign Theatre has enjoyed wide popular success,
producing twenty-two best-selling records including the Grammy-nominated
Three Faces of Al, seven nationally syndicated radio series, many
local shows, musicals, and national tours, and the short films:
Everything You Know Is Wrong, Eat or Be Eaten, Nick Danger in the
Case of the Missing Yolks, and The Madhouse of Dr. Fear (with Don
Adams) and Hot Shorts --which by re-editing, re-scoring and re-dubbing,
brought new life to old horror films and classic Republic Studio
Phil Proctor adds the following regarding their comedic influences:
Mr NOISE asked about influences on us -- Well,they would be -- including but not limited,too, Bob & Ray (who's CLASSIC B&R volume 4 actually include selections i gave to Larry Josephson from my private NYC collection), Stan the man Freberg, Ernie Kovacs,Steve Allen,Olsen & Johnson, old radio, new radio, anything on television, Spike Jones, Ish Kabibble, the Amish, Laurel&Hardy, silent comedies,cartoons,Blooper records, The Great Crepitation Contest,Johnathan and Darlene Edwards, the Goons and any english comedians living or still living,the writings of Ogden Nash and Robert Benchley, folk comedians Herb Shriner and George Goeble (sp), Charlie Weaver and uncle dave, the Marxist Bros, Harold Lloyd, anybody who ever made a comedy album -- my god, the list could go on forever. After all, if you're into comedy, you can never get enough of it!
None of this begins to do them any justice:
we encourage you to buy one of their CDs (or old phonos) and hear
for yourself. This is in fact, about the only way to really understand
what the Firesign Theatre was and IS about! We're not insane!
The link here is to the Firesign Bio page.
This provides information on what the 4 or 5 were doing UP TO the
creation of the Firsign Theatre.
A series of quotes from the BIG BOOK OF PLAYS book:
This section helps define what the 4 or 5 were trying to do
with the Firesign Theatre
"David Ossman is the first I met. The two of us are not what you'd think of right off as comedians. I was producing all these plays by dead authors -- acting, directing; got David to act, looked at the amazing books of poetry that he'd produced -- as if he had hand-printed every page. We had wonderful conversations about the Indians. Hopi.
"Peter Bergman was the Voice that Wouldn't Die. What a talker! The Champ. I engineered _Radio Free Oz_ and appeared in a variety of stoned disguises. (This was fun. Not like acting, which is not real to me, therefore not fun.) Unlike most performers, Peter becomes *more* candid when he performs. Set him in front of a microphone and you have an angel. With most people, it's the opposite.
"Philip Proctor *is* an actor. He is also not exactly a
comedian. He is not so much trying to make you laugh as he
is trying to explain something to you. I have always been
his friend because I admire that so much. He can go places
I can't. He was a friend of Peter's who was "funny".
God, ain't dat de trufe! "So there we were, *four friends*.
You see, we had no ambitions. It was a pure jam and the instrument
we each played was verbal glibness or *radio*. We still continue
that first conversation. This book, those recordings, are
records of that conversation, a minute-book of the meeting.
"RECORDS ARE RECORDS (recordings of something). THEY ARE MEANT TO INCLUDE YOU IN OUR CONVERSATION.
"Yes, we take it seriously. Read [in the Big Book of Plays] Hideo Gump Sr.'s intro to each script. Laughter and Dancing, Singing and Love. We love the Firesign Theatre. How do you get along with people? What do you have to show for it? Our work is, to me, my answer to those questions.
"What does it mean?
"1. The Firesign Theatre writes communally. Every word goes through four heads for approval. We therefore write very slowly. Our energy level is intense. Grown men leave the room when we fight with each other. Nothing is sacred.
"2. Therefore, there are considerable areas
of chance (*chance*) in our work since no overall motive is
possible. All communal endeavors learn one thing, I think.
*Only real things can be agreed upon*. The future is not real,
therefore *motives* cannot be agreed upon. *Chance becomes
*Our records are records of what happened to us during the period we made them.
*Our records are a continuous story that will last as long as our friendship.
*May we be friends forever.
--Phil Austin (Signature)
"My honest idea of The Firesign Theatre is four artists
getting together and grouping to create some new art form,
some multi-art that comes our of all four of their minds.
It's an interesting choice, and that's one of the things that
fascinates me. It's not a loss of identity, really. It's more
a gaining of a double identity. I'm Peter Bergman and I'm
one-quarter of The Firesign Theatre. And when I have those
two things together, in harmony, one feeds off the other.
~ 1966 ~
July 24 -- The first broadcast of Radio Free Oz over KPFK-FM (*) (Peter and various collaborators are on the air five nights a week until March).
November 17 -- The Firesign Theatre's first performance, "The Oz Film Festival," a three-hour improvisation on Radio Free Oz.
December -- Peter, David, and Phil and Annalee Austin attend the Soyal Ceremony in Hopiland. (Phil P. is On Tour in Florida).
~ 1967 ~
March -- The first broadcast of a four-hour radio documentary on the American Indian, written and produced by Peter, David, and Phil A., followed by a weekend Colloquium, followed by the first Love-In, organized by Radio Free Oz, which moved to KRLA (AM) the same day (March 26).
April-May -- After Phil Proctor's return from the East, The Firesign Theatre writes and records Waiting For The Electrician or Someone Like Him.
April 29 -- The Firesign Theatre performs their Bulgarian play called "Waiting for the Electrician" at a UCLA Experimental Arts Festival.
June-July -- David and Phil P. conduct Oz during Peter's return trip to Turkey.
September 14 -- Peter and David begin broadcasting Oz for three hours every Sunday night from a Studio city club called The Magic Mushroom.
October 29 -- Bridey Murphy Eve on Oz begins a series of weekly radio plays written and performed live by the FST at the Mushroom. Among the scripts are "Exorcism in Your Daily Life," "The Last Tunnel To Fresno," "20 Years Behind The Whale," "The Giant Rat of Sumatra," "The Sword and the Stoned," "Sesame Mucho," "The Armenian's Paw," and "Tile it Like It Is."
December 9 -- The Firesign Theatre performs its first stage piece, "Freak For A Week," for a KPFK benefit at the Santa Monica Civic Auditorium.
~ 1968 ~
Lynn Gustafson writes:
In the mid-sixties the Renaissance Pleasure Faire in So.Cal. was a fund raiser for KPFK. They did live broadcasts from the fairesite. The Flying Karamazov Brothers were also working at the faire at that time.
When the Living History Centre was first incorporated, their motto was "Forward Into the Past." LHC and RPF are still around, in our 31st year. Some of the guys still show up occasionally.
The original FST fan club was started in June, 1972 and was titled 'FIREMAIL / THE MINDLESS FELLOWSHIP - and was started up in Lincoln, Nebraska. There are two newsgroups: alt.fan.firesign-theatre, and alt.comedy.firesgn-thtre. The first group causes some news servers problems due to its name having >14 chars. Most people seem to be gravitating towards the "comedy" group these days.
You can also get to the newsgroup through www.dejanews.com (http://www.dejanews.com/) using alt.comedy.firesgn-thtre in the input text box.
For the rest of this document, "alt.comedy.firesgn-thtre" will assume to refer to both of these groups.
As near as anyone can figure, alt.comedy.firesgn-thtre is composed of a bunch of the old guard, sitting around and exchanging FST lines with each other ("What about my pickle?" "You're lucky you still have your brown paper bag, small-change!"), together with neophytes who might have just run across the newsgroup, discussions about where the FST members are now, reunion announcements, the deep philosophical and metaphysical implications of Bozos, and other such musings.
The Newsgroup is also the best place to go for the latest anouncments concerning the Firesign Theatre's activities, and those of all of the Firesign Websites.
The House of Firesign Chat Group
There are now Many
FST web pages! To keep current, You can
FAlaFal (Four-Alarm FIRESIGNal):
HasNoName has issues 23 to 30 of the FAlaFal at his FST web site the Terminal Bus (very well done).
Benway of Hollywood