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Firesign Theatre: Introduction and Table of Contents, Part 1/3

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Archive-name: firesign-theatre/intro/part1
Last-modified: 1995/3/24
Version: 2.1

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    The Firesign Theatre: Introduction & Table of Contents

This series of files is intended to provide a general information base 
for discussion, and answer some frequently-asked questions posted on 
alt.comedy.firesgn-thtre and its mirror-clone 
For the rest of this document "alt.comedy.firesgn-thtre" will be used 
to refer to both groups.

Additions and corrections to this file should be directed to the FAQ 
editor (###-a fancy title for (Niles Ritter).

Some portions of this document are copyrighted by the members of the
Firesign Theatre; you may want to get permission before using parts
of this document in *for-profit* publication -- we are their
fans, after all!

###-Editor's remarks are denoted by three #'s

                           Table Of Contents

                    (Each "Side" is a separate file.)

   Side 1)  Firesign Theatre: Introduction

       1.1)  Who Am Us, Anyway?
           1.1.1) The Four or Five Crazy Guys
           1.1.2) A Forward Into the Past History
           1.1.3) The newsgroups and fan clubs

       1.2)  Published Works
           1.2.1) Radio/TV/Stage production
           1.2.2) Vinyl
           1.2.3) Video
           1.2.4) Books
           1.2.5) CD's
           1.2.6) Cassettes
           1.2.7) LD's

       1.3)  References
           1.3.1) Interviews/articles on FT
           1.3.2) Literary References/Background
           1.3.3) Other References

   Side 2)  Firesign Theatre: Frequently Asked questions

       2.0) I've just Discovered the F.T! How should I get started?
       2.1) How Can I Get Copies of these FAQs?
       2.2) How can I contact the NewsGroup with E-mail?
       2.3) Who Did Which Roles?
       2.4) Any Reunions going on ?
       2.5) Where can I get F.T. (Videos, CD's, etc)
       2.6) Where are they now ?
       2.7) Common FT Phrases
       2.7) Who is Doctor Memory?
       2.8) Is it "Back T0 the Shadows" or "..FROM the Shadows" ?
       2.9) FT Questions posed to the Usenet Oracle

   Side 3)  Firesign Theatre: Lyrics to Songs

   Side 4)  Firesign Theatre: Lexicon

     Part 3:  HCYB-OZ
     Part 4:  PAPOON-ZIPS


Side 1)  Introduction to Firesign Theatricum

Creating an FAQ for the Firesign Theatre is something analogous to
"The complete works of Shakespeare, FAQ", so be aware that the
world of FT is as vast and deep as the ocean and the azure sky.

1.1)  Who Am Us, Anyway?

Here is a description of the Firesign Theatre:

A group of four gifted improvisational comedians and satirists, perhaps
best known for several record albums they produced in the 1970s. These
were famous for their depth of interaction among the characters, their
range of literary allusion and references to popular culture, history
and science, and the incomparable surreal quality of their pacing.
Different listeners would each find different significance in the work
and make different connections between themes within them. Much of
their work anticipated developments in video, interactive media,
computer technology and virtual reality by some 20 years. 

Their initial work began on radio in Los Angeles in the mid 60's, but
their James-Joycean style of dramatic satire quickly expanded to
include phonograph recordings, live stage productions, movies,
books, and one of the first interactive video productions produced.

More than one fan has noted the complexity of their recordings, which
derived from their use of dense layering of sound tracks, as well as
their ingenious use of puns, metaphor, and other literary allusions.
The FT wove intricate stories which flowed, not so much like a river,
but like a rapidly evolving organism, projecting pseudopods out this
way, and then that. And yet the stories always seemed to maintain its
own internal logic.

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!

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!

1.1.1) The Four or Five Crazy Guys:

Name             -- Aliases, roles
Philip Austin    -- Nick Danger, Hemlock Stones, etc,
Philip Proctor   -- Clem, Ralph Spoilsport, the Poop, etc
David Ossman     -- Porgie, Catherwood, etc
Peter Bergman    -- Babe, Mudhead, Nancy...

We should also acknowledge the oft-ignored but ubiquitous female

Annalee Austin -- Operator in "Don't crush that Dwarf"
Tiny Ossman -- Announcerettes in "Bozos"
Laura Quinn -- Hawkmoth in "Eat or Be Eaten"

Others appearing in FT productions include
Diane Davisson, Rodger Bumpass, Jerry Houser, Christie Houser,
Susan Tanner, Cyrus Faryar, and casts of thousands. 

For updates on where they are now, see the "Frequently Asked
Questions" file.

A series of quotes from the {BBOP} book:

Philip Austin:

"I always wanted to be a part of something. Annalee and I used to 
secretly, separately, dream of rock and roll bands. I hadn't even 
*thought* yet that rock and roll could save me.

"So I was in Hollywood in 1966, starving on all levels. I got a job in 
a radio station because I could always do that with my voice -- could 
make you believe that I was committed to the words coming out of my 
mouth. I mistakenly believed, therefore that I was an Actor. I'm not. 
I'm a musician. Interesting that it was the *sounds* of the words that 
got to me the most. The Firesign Theatre was the vehicle that allowed 
me to make that discovery.

"The Firesign Theatre is a *Technique*.

"These were the people who faced me across the microphones on the radio 
and this is what I think of them:

"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 

"Quickly, Ambition walked in the door. I thought we were good. I'd 
heard some pretty fast, funny cats in my time, but these three were as 
good as Spike Milligan. We started hanging out with each other, gave up 
our jobs, found more and more ways to earn livings using each other. I 
got my Globe Theatre, Phil P. got a Movie Company, David got a Great 
Work of Literature and Peter got the Forever Radio Show.

"RECORDS ARE RECORDS (recordings of something). THEY ARE MEANT TO

"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

"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 the motive*.

   "What do we mean? We mean whatever's happening. ?Que paso, hombre?

   *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

   *May we be friends forever.

     --Phil Austin (Signature)

Philip Proctor:

" I was born in a trunk in the Princess Theatre, Pocatello, Idaho. No, 
I was born in Goshen, Indiana. I really have spent some time analyzing 
it. I grew up in an essentially schizophrenic existence. I was schooled 
on the East Coast, because I moved there when I was five. I went to 
Riverdale Country School and Yale University, but during my formative 
years of growth -- the pubic years -- I grew up in Goshen, Indiana, 
with my grand parents and my neighborhood friends. Radio and comic 
books had a lot to do with my youth. The comic books supplied the 
visual element. I finally became a professional actor after college. 
Acting led me to The Firesign Theatre because I found New York theatre 
to be dumb and limited. Silly. I wanted to create my own theatre.

     --Philip Proctor (Signature)

David Ossman:

"I'm a writer, a poet, which is to say I always did that. My life was 
totally in my head, and I wrote about it. I developed a historical 
sense of things and then I went into radio. Because that's what I 
always wanted to do.It was one of those childhood fantasies like 
growing up to be a fireman. I wanted to be a radio announcer, and in 
1959 I became a radio announcer. I did that for quite a while. I worked 
in New York at WBAI for two years and then went back to the West Coast 
and worked for KPFK for four years. They laid everybody off, including 
me, so I got a job in television, which I hated, so I dropped out of 
that. The Firesign Theatre appeared at the same time.

     --David Ossman (Signature)

Peter Bergman:

"I owe everything I do tho my normal childhood. I had a very 
unrepressed childhood and I lived in the Midwest, and there were very 
few things to amuse myself, except softball, so I would do routines to 
myself, like "Why Isn't Everybody Happy?" was one of my routines, so 
they kept me indoors a lot. A kid named Bruce Berger and I opened up a 
parking lot one night in an empty lot across from an Emporium show. We 
made $50 wearing Cleveland Indians baseball caps, yelling, "*Park and 
Lock it! Not Responsible!*"

  "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.

    --Peter Bergman (A very Floral Signature)

1.1.2) A Forward Into the Past History

Another excerpt from the "Big Book of Plays":

   Mark Time's True Chronology of The Firesign Theatre


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).


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 FT 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


*(All locations in Los Angeles, unless otherwise mentioned)

###-More to Follow (really ! I promise!).

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

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.

1.1.3) The newsgroups and fan clubs

There are two newsgroups:, 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.

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
FT 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 FT members are now, reunion announcements, the deep
philosophical and metaphysical implications of Bozos, and other such 

The Firesign Theatre used to have a fan newsletter called, "It's just
this little Chromium Switch, Here!", but is now defunct.

See the FAQ file, item 2.5, for addresses of newsletters for fans.

User Contributions:

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