Bergman launched his new crusade on the computer Infoban June 3rd, 1996, and helped to spark interest by putting on the first live webcast of Radio Free Oz from the stage of the Knitting Factory nightclub in New York City on June 14th, 1996, as part of the citywide Toyota Comedy Festival. He solicited two fellow Firesigners, Philip Proctor and David Ossman to join the cast of ten characters of the Radio Free Oz Players for The Big Internet Broadcast of 1996, in the format of Peter's Digital Diner. It was a live version of the rfo.net website.
"How the Big Broadcast happened? Well, one of the people working with us, Hal Josephson, who's the CEO of Radio Free Oz, knew some of the people at the Knitting Factory. And they said, 'We're in the midst of the Toyota Comedy Festival, how would you like to do two nights at our place as part of the festival?' I said, 'Well fine. Let's do it.' And I thought, 'We'll do a live webcast, and we'll do it as a variety show.' I just harkened back to the Big Broadcasts of the '30s, which were movies of radio broadcasts, with W. C. Fields, et all. So I said, 'Ok, we'll do The Big Internet Broadcast Of 1996.' That sounded like a good title to me, and that's how it was born. I put it together and got Ossman and Proctor to write new material with me, and started collecting together the Radio Free Oz Players, which is the group I already had together on the West Coast, and we have an East Coast contingent, as well. And I thought, 'If we're going to do The Big Internet Broadcast, we're not going to do it from a ship, like they did in that movie, from an ocean liner with a cast of thousands, we'll do it from a 'Digital Diner.' The Digital Diner is one of the shows on our site, and was a radio show that I did with Ted Bonnitt in the spring of '94. The result of all that, was that it was Internet related. So it was about the Internet, but it was when you get right down to it, a radio show and a variety show. A live variety show that went out over the radio. It went out over the Web, to a certain degree, as it's very difficult to broadcast live on the Web right now. This is the crystal radio period of the Internet, a glorious time, and a time of great freedom and anarchy, and also a time of technical difficulties. And when they overcome all of those technical difficulties, it will be just as boring as television, and then we'll move on. So we're actually starting with a golden age and we're moving down from there."
"The Big Internet Broadcast Of 1996" lived up to the images conjured up from the 1930's movie series with similar names featuring W. C. Fields, Bing Crosby, Burns and Allen, Cab Calloway, and Bob Hope, except the program was racked with digital humor and Internet puns for the 100 minute world wide webcast, simulcast over radio station WNYC. There were plenty of upgraded references for Bergman fans, Firesign Theatre aficionados and snickering nerds logged on with the titillating self pleasure of being able to capture it 'free' on the net. Bergman formed the variety show around his "post modem" Digital Diner, featured on the webpage and parked on West Coast radio stations in the early '90s.
The show was capably produced by Ted Bonnitt of 7th Planet Productions, a West Coast company and an unindicted co-conspirator of Bergman, working on many projects together over the years. Bergman explained, "Bonnitt and I have a company called Bergman and Bonnitt, which is an audio boutique in Los Angeles. I'm making my living off of making advertising for motion pictures, mainly radio advertising, that's my steady day job. I've done some other work for motion pictures, mainly teasers, and trailer copy and stuff like that." Ted Bonnitt came out and introduced the show several minutes before webtime.
Of course the highlights of the program came when 3/4 of the Firesign Theatre crew went through their exercises of the surreal, in solo, duo, or trio, conjuring their media magic in various combinations there-of. One just can't get enough of these guys, especially when one of their major voices is missing, but this was a Peter Bergman gig.
The trio, augmented by Melinda Peterson and A. Ernest Guy started out with a ten-minute hysterical History Of The Internet, replete with digital puns and computer gaffs. A. Ernest announced and gave the verbal commands as the others became icons for the audience to click their mental mouse on.
Proctor played Frank Acne who becomes enamored after being exposed by his eccentric uncle, inventor Professor Immanuel Archetype (David Ossman) to his steam powered aquarium screened Internet in 1921, and promotes the system through the years. "Have you invented television?" "No, television is an addiction whose time is yet to come." "Can I have sex with it?" "Virtually.", and on and on, as the puns and double entendres piled on like linebackers after a loose football in a Superbowl game.
Bergman as Admiral Pudgeford Sticklefinger, of the Pacific fleet's U.S.S. Friendly Fire discovers the Japanese plans to attack Peal Harbor by 'occidentally' intercepting an 'East-mail' message from Hirohito at kamikaze.com. As Bergman said, "The Internet was initially designed by the Department of Defense. Well gee, I never thought I'd have anything to thank the Department of Defense for. But sometimes from the minds of paranoid generals, spring jewels."
The bit ended with A. Ernest Guy summing up the Internet, "A magnificent synthesis of culture, commerce, conflict and conspiracy. A totally incomprehensible, uncontrollable, and unlimited cocktail of human potential." Very fitting, for on that day the Federal Courts declared the Internet uncensorable.
The trio also wiped the audience into a frenzy by downloading a Internet version of a section from their album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, starring Porgie and Mudhead (Ossman and Bergman) called Potatoe Salad Gone Bad, spelling attributable to Dan Quale I suppose. It was extremely funny and again pun and inference loaded. "On the way, we can stop off at altsex.com and download some T&A, that Louise Wong's got a homepage she shows her yahoos on!", "I thought I'd go out and program a bunch of guys to think alike and see what they'd pick to follow around." It ended too quickly with Proctor's Principle Poop speech, "All fellow losers, er..users..and that means you, Muddy and Porridge Head...surrender yourself unconditionally, informally, hyper-sexually, er..ah hypertextually to the Emergency Student SPAM Rave which is already up and running." Instead of the usual profanity shouted from the crowd, because it was broadcast over the radio waves, came the obligatory question, "What is virtual reality!"
David Ossman entered the Digital Diner as George Leroy Tirebiter and stirred up the primenet soup with his campaign slogans of "Not Insane", "One organism, One vote!", "The guaranteed annual year, that will move no faster than the speed of life", and "One Person, One homepage!", with Bergman chiming in, "One Bozo, one hot button!" Tirebiter also brought out of retirement in Tarzana, to help him promote his platform of extending citizenship to the great apes, Cheetah (Proctor). After all they're only, "Genetically one percent of DNA away from us human beings. They support strong family values. Are for lower taxes, because its hard to reach them when your knuckles drag on the ground." Bergman: "How do you tell a two-ton gorilla, he can't vote?" Tirebiter: "Very tactfully!" Ossman also appeared as Ben Bland, the all day matinee movie host, in Ben Bland's Internet Graveyard Matinee, sponsored by the Gates Of Hell, a timeless homestead or a hopeless timeshare, with his warning signs of depression, and to take your computer's advice, "Drink as much as possible", a routine which has ripened with age like a fine whine. Ossman also came out as Art Wholeflaffer, the sleazy entrepreneur and manager of The Blue Mouse Nudist Camp.
Phil Proctor didn't do an extended solo piece, which is too bad, but did shine on his bits scattered throughout the program, particularly his Anythynge soliloquy. Proctor is a genuine voice artist and an extremely proficient, consummate thespian who can go beyond what's called for, and when primed, reaches the plain above mere acting, becoming the character in almost frightening proportions.
Peter Bergman, however, was not to be outdone this evening, as it was his show, and he threw all caution to the winds along with his puns and political punditry, illiciting boos of laughter from the faithful, and converts. He ordered up some campaign year hors d'auvres, "a Rush Limburger, a thick slice of stale ham, on a bed of white bread and crackers...spaghetti with White Water D'Amato sauce, and Bob Dole sacrificial lamb, roasted slowly all summer, fairly chewed up in the fall, and entirely passed by the 5th of November."
Bergman observed the way the politicos have become computer literate: "Politicians are getting very much into the whole Internet thing. They're also getting into the CD-ROM and game world. Its true. The Republicans are releasing their own version of "Doom". Its called "Dole". And Newt Gingrich has a game out called, "Mortal Contract", which is doing very very well.
The bald one also gave us the secrets to his financial success: "I turned my home phone into a 900 number. I started making money on my first call. When the IRS gives me a call, I put them on hold and start paying off my taxes!"
Peter Bergman was really rejuvenating himself and it seemed that years of pent-up creativity were finally bubbling to the surface and bursting out with his performance. The Big Internet Broadcast of 1996 was really the showcase of Bergman's new direction of humor and the beginning of his personal renaissance.