Didn’t I say this on the other side of the record?

High School Madness!

High School Madness!

Here’s an interesting article in The New York Times about a pending reunion of the five surviving members of Monty Python’s Flying Circus, which will kick off a six-hour IFC documentary titled “Monty Python: Almost the Truth (The Lawyer’s Cut).”

Now, don’t get me wrong; I love the Pythons. I started watching them in college and have a closet packed with DVDs of their TV show and movies. But when I read a line like this — “To find the equivalent of the Pythons’ kind of wordplay and punning (verbal and visual) you have to turn to written humor, which may be where some of the Pythons’ inspiration came from in the first place.” — I feel badly for Philip Proctor, Phil Austin, Peter Bergman and David Ossman, a.k.a. The Firesign Theatre, a homegrown outfit I first encountered in high school. I have a second closet full of their vinyl and a pretty substantial collection of CDs.

The Firesign Theatre took to the airwaves on Radio Free Oz at KPFK in 1967, two years before the Pythons cranked up their BBC act, and were regulars on KRLA a year later. Anyone who enjoys wordplay and punning could do much, much worse than listen to Firesign classics such as “Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him,” “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers,” “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus,” “Everything You Know Is Wrong” or “The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra” — which has its roots in, of all things, the British author Arthur Conan Doyle’s Sherlock Holmes series (a tale for which the world is not yet prepared).

And therein lies the rub. You pretty much had to listen to the Firesigns, which requires more imagination than watching TV, the same way reading does. They were never as good as the Pythons in front of a camera, but then again the Pythons were never any great shakes as an audio act. At least half of what makes the Pythons funny is their physical, visual comedy.

I never saw the Pythons live, but I saw the Firesigns in Denver once, and it was a memorable experience, with a great deal of (and perhaps too much) audience participation, especially from me and my pals. They’re still performing today. But drop a Firesign Theatre reference into a casual conversation and someone will probably suggest you pop in to the local ER for regrooving. Do a dead-parrot quip and you’re the life of the party.

We may not all be bozos on this bus, but at least some of us are.

13 Responses to “Didn’t I say this on the other side of the record?”

  1. Swell Says:

    Firesign is the best. Tho Goon Show and Python were wonderful and genealogically cool in terms of British comedy, but Firesign is in my head. Every line. How can I Be in Both Places at Once When I’m Not Anywhere At All? Simple, I was headed for the Same old place, and ended up at the Old Same Place, with a lid in the car and a girl with a diamond ring spread-eagled on the floor. I beat the eagle off and applied mouth-to-mouth resuscitation.
    “This Land is made of Mountains,
    This Land is made of Mud,
    This Land has lots of everything
    For Me and Elmer Fudd”

    And my favorite
    “The sun is going down”
    “Oh no you’re confused, the horizon’s moving up.
    Oh, it’s…paisley!”

    Dear God help me

  2. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    “Let’s stand him on his head … there, you see: Now it’s morning! Oh, he’s no fun, he fell right over.”

  3. chris Says:

    Don’t hide arms, get side-arms! Without Firesign Theater, I might never have met PO’G, standing around a keg in college throwing FT lines back and forth until we were the only ones left in the kitchen, with every other person at the party cringing in the living room with empty plastic Coors cups, afraid to come for a refill lest they be accosted by the weirdos at the tap.
    And I’ve still never been to Yucaipa.

  4. Bret Says:

    Good one Uh-Clem.

  5. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    He broke the President!

  6. khal spencer Says:

    ….but…the President of the United States IS named Schickelgruber!

  7. Downhill Bill Says:

    Shoes for industry, shoes for the war!

  8. phil austin Says:

    Thanks to you and all these comments for being so nice to us. Let me take this opportunity to – Python-like – attempt to make some money off y’all.

    As Dr. Guillermo Infermo (on FST’s 1999 album on Rhino called “Boom dot Bust” says: “Just because you’re surrounded by evil, doesn’t mean you can’t make some money off it.”

    We’re doing four shows in Hollywod on Oct. 14-17. If anyone wants to buy tickets (hint, hint), just head for: http://www.firesigntheatre.com/

    And thanks again,

    Phil Austin

  9. Patrick O'Grady Says:

    Permit me to introduce himself: Phil is Nick Danger, “Happy” Harry Cox, Bebop Loco, and any number of other characters — indeed, so many personalities that Sybil said, “Fuck it, I can’t compete on this level.” When you put on the nose, it grows . . . .

    If you can’t make it to Hollyweird to catch The Firesign Theatre Oct. 14-17, you can follow Phil Austin at his blog, Phil Austin’s Blog of the Unknown. And Phil, if you and the guys ever make it back to Colorado, I’ll follow the old (yellow) rubber line to the show and fetch along as many Bozos as the bus will bear — relentlessly, ruthlessly (I wonder where Ruth is?), doggedly (woof woof woof) toward that adventure with The Unknown.

  10. Bill Hyer Says:

    ….And what about Naomie?

  11. Thomas Gedwillo Says:

    For all news on Firesign Theatre, check out my “Chromium Switch” site, along with “WikiRococo” and “fireheads.org” – there’s a great resurgence in Firesign awareness!

  12. Speaking of bozos | Mad Blog Media Says:

    […] had completely slipped my mind, but Phil Austin actually dropped by the blog back in 2009 to squeeze the wheeze (honk honk) and tip us off to a quartet of shows The Firesign […]

  13. Not insane! (Well, maybe a little) | Mad Blog Media Says:

    […] “Nick Danger” Austin himself even popped around the blog to try, Python-like, to squeeze a dollar or two out of the Bozos and Bozoettes who loiter around my […]

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