Not insane! (Well, maybe a little)

A Firesign sampler.

Thanks to Steve O’ for sending me on a little trip down Dr. Memory Lane with his mention in comments of a KCRW podcast that looked forward, into the past, at the Firesign Theatre.

I first stumbled across the Firesigns in high school. The source of the contagion may have been my friend Bruce Gibson, who was something of an audiophile, or perhaps Dan Stephanian, who was an actual disc jockey.

The Firesigns struck me like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist, and if I hadn’t planned to be a cartoonist I might have gone into radio instead of newspapering. Their skit “The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye,” and far too many impromptu amateur performances of same, would provide an entrée into friendships that, like herpes, have proven impossible to eradicate.

We saw “Martian Space Party” at the Rialto Theatre in Alamosa way back in 1972, and even the actual Firesigns themselves in concert at the old Ebbets Field in Denver, circa 1977 or thereabouts.

One of our college hovels bore the sign “Ed Siegelman’s Ground Zero Equal Opportunity Apartments,” a FT reference from “Dear Friends.” And when I was assigned to build an actual show as part of a radio-production class I created an all-Firesign homage. Music, news, weather, sports and commercials, all were pulled from their tattered casebook.

Phil “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 drugstore, drinking chocolate malted falcons and giving away free high schools.

Phil’s gone now, dear friends, as is Peter Bergman. But last fall the surviving Firesigns, Philip Proctor and David Ossman, got together at the Library of Congress to perform and discuss the troupe’s work.

The Library has all their albums. I only have most of them, an oversight I intend to correct.



15 Responses to “Not insane! (Well, maybe a little)”

  1. Mark Rothschild Says:

    “We’re all Bozo’s,…on this Bus”….

  2. David Rees Says:

    Those boys are still a part of my life and have been since they started recording. It’s almost embarrassing how often a line they’ve done pops out in my conversation. In ’71 or so -if I remember right – being on the left coast near Lost Angles in their early years, I’d listen to them on KPFK radio on Sunday night (or was it Saturday?) on their Dear Friends program. Brilliant, unique comedy and exceptional political commentary as well. The Deputy Dan sketch still kills me…

    If you haven’t listened to it in a while, Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death is still stunning – all centered, loosely, around the Y2K hysteria. I think it’s still available on CD.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      Yep, got “Immortality” on CD. You can get some of their goodies from the Firesale store, and part of their catalog is on iTunes.

      The album “Dear Friends” is a compilation of a lot of the old Radio Free Oz bits. Man, there’s some funny stuff there, and a lot of it holds up really well. I’m listening to it for the gazillionth time right now.

      One of my favorites remains “Everything You Know Is Wrong.” Great sendup of the New Age movement. “Hello, Seekers! (There’s a Seeker born every minute.)”

  3. Herb Clevenger Says:

    It was 1971 (sweet Jesus that is back when the earth was cooling) and we had the the first surround sound system in the dorms. Add in Firesign, a bit of burning hemp and we didn’t know which movie we were in . But damn we sure chased that bus, Bozos all.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I spent a lot of the late Sixties and early Seventies wearing headphones. It’s no wonder there are voices in my head. I put ’em there.

      • Dale Says:

        Headphones added another dimension to Firesign’s genius. There were so many little voices and noises in the background that you could miss when listening through speakers (or they may have been voices in my head).

      • Herb Clevenger Says:

        Tell the truth now. Koss Pro4a’s? Used to listen to late night ( as in 1 am) underground Fm radio through mine. Only time I could receive the fragile signals. The Koss phones kept my old man from coming upstairs and throttling me. Never forget hearing Pink Floyd’s Atom Heart Mother all the while frantic with the tuning knobs since the signal was so weak. I felt like I had discovered an entire new language. Turns out I did.

  4. Chris Says:

    Thanks for comparing me to herpes, friend. It’s the nicest thing anyone’s said about me in weeks!

  5. Pat O’Brien Says:

    I am embarrassed to say that I was unaware of the Firesign Theater until Patrick referenced them some time ago here in the doghouse. If you folks would recommend one of their greatest bits, I will check them out.

    • Patrick O'Grady Says:

      I’d say “Nick Danger,” from “How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All,” is their most accessible bit. A good starting point. As Dale notes below, “Temporarily Humboldt County,” from “Waiting for the Electrician Or Someone Like Him” is another great bit. It feeds neatly into “W.C. Fields Forever” and “Le Trente-Huit Cunégonde.”

  6. Dale E Brigham Says:

    Temporarily Humboldt County:
    WAGON BOSS: Here, Injun! Ya want some firewater?
    INDIAN: No. We were warned by our Elders not to drink anything that would make us weak or silly.
    WAGON BOSS: (laughs) Put in their well!
    INDIAN: That’s not a well. It’s the Eye of the Holy Serpent Mound, on which your standing.
    WAGON BOSS: It’s a beaut’!
    INDIAN: No, it’s a mound.
    WAGON BOSS: And right purty, too! er- can ya’ move it?
    INDIAN: But – why?
    WAGON BOSS: Railroad’s comin’ thru! Right now!

    Manifest comedy, indeed! Dale

  7. John A Levy Says:

    remember firesign theatre doing a dub over of the KWGN tvmovie “Titanic” with hope and stanwyck on one of the denver radio stations back in 72 or 73. year escapes as did some of my first two years in college. Herb consumption I can hypothesize.

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