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Showbiz Today

Aired December 17, 1999 - 4:30 p.m. ET

MORET: The Firesign Theater is fired up about the new millennium. The comedy troupe has a new album out for 2000 called "Boom-Dot-Bust." Dennis Michael met up with the jokesters as they made faces for a new film.

MELINDA PETERSON: Surprised, concerned, smug, thoughtful, inspired, questioning.

DENNIS MICHAEL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): This is the Firesign Theater at work, so you can expect things to be a little surreal. But the strange behavior on display here could stand a little explanation.

PHIL PROCTOR: What we're doing is we're augmenting the CD, "Boom-Dot-Bust," by shooting ancillary material that will be in stills, that will be then animated in a new and exciting kind of old- fashioned, "Monty Python-esque" kind of way. to illustrate a retrospective film being made on the Firesign Theater...

PETER BERGMAN: To illustrate it, to add part of it.

PROCTOR: Which will be offered as a premium on PBS.

BERGMAN: After being shown on PBS as real broadcast material. We're going to enter the mainstream. It's going to be really different.

OSSMAN: Before the beginning, there were these bozos.

MICHAEL: After more than 30 years as a beloved cult comedy, radio theater album, surreal satirical performing troupe -- pick any three -- the Firesign Theater is in serious danger of going mainstream. The group's two latter-day albums, "Give me Immortality or Give me Death" and "Boom-Dot-Bust," on Rhino Records, are bringing the comedy group to a full-scale '90s audience.

PHIL AUSTIN, ACTOR: We've gotten way too popular. It's not any good. And we're selling too many records. People are too interested in us. We were settled in. We had our lives completely secure. Now everything's ruined.

PROCTOR: Colleges got to know who we were again.

BERGMAN: We're drowning in the mainstream.

MELINDA PETERSON: Next one: thoughtful -- thoughtful.

MICHAEL: Firesign represent the thinking man's comedy, even though the thinking is often outside the ordinary realms of thought.

PROCTOR: Twenty-one-thousand officers and men, at Camp Sherman, Chillicothe, Ohio, forming a living picture of Woodrow Wilson. Now this is very rare.

BERGMAN: This is almost directly after they had defeated the League of Nations.

MELINDA PETERSON: Three quarters -- concern.

MICHAEL: The PBS special, to be called "Weirdly Cool," and a live concert show to hit the East Coast this spring are on the Firesign Theater's immediate schedule. Of course, they're at work on another new album, to be called "Bride of Firesign," and bringing a lot of long-gestating ideas to fruition.

MELINDA PETERSON: Oh, look how concerned he is, oooh!

MICHAEL: The Firesign Theater as waited since before the beginning to go mainstream. Now they've arrived, and they're surprised, confident, concerned, thoughtful -- pick any three.
Dennis Michael, CNN Entertainment News, Hollywood.

Pictures courtesy of Brian Westley