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The Firesign Theatre

By fusing the high-concept comic vision of Stan Freberg with the expansive studio experimentation of the Beatles, the Firesign Theatre singlehandedly dragged the comedy album into the psychedelic era. Creating densely layered montages of improvisational routines, overheard dialogue, media manipulation, commercial parodies, and sound effects, the four-man troupe devised a hallucinatory brand of surrealist comic performance and Joycean satire laced with puns, metaphors, and obscure literary allusions that redefined the very concept of recorded comedy.

Comprised of Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, and Philip Proctor, the Firesign Theatre debuted on Los Angeles' KPFK radio on November 17, 1966, with a performance of "The Oz Film Festival," a three-hour improvisational piece. Their recorded bow, Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him, followed in 1968; loaded with obvious drug references and clearly reflective of the hippie mentality of the times, the record won the troupe a tremendous following on college campuses and among the acid culture. Their 1969 follow-up, How Can You Be Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All?, featured the first appearance of Nick Danger, their popular parody of Sam Spade and hardboiled crime fiction.

With 1970's Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers, Firesign perfected the formula, offering a fragmentary, cut-and-paste set of mock news broadcasts and radio drama satires. Their studio trickery became even more pronounced with 1971's I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus, an absurdist look at the future set at a World's Fair-like festival, while 1972 brought two diverse efforts: the first, the 12-record set Dear Friends, sampled 1970-1971 moments from the Theatre's syndicated radio program, and the second, Not Insane or Anything You Want To, featured all new material.

After a two-year hiatus, the Firesign Theatre returned in 1974 with both The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra and Everything You Know Is Wrong! After the sci-fi paranoia of 1975's In the Next World You're on Your Own, the group's longtime association with Columbia ended, and Firesign moved to the Butterfly label for 1977's Just Folks: A Firesign Chat. As times changed and drug use tapered off, the troupe's core collegiate following began to dwindle; after 1979's Fighting Clowns, the Theatre's members began working on solo projects, but reunited in 1985 for Eat or Be Eaten. After again parting ways, they reteamed for a series of 1993 performances later documented on Back from the Shadows. Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death followed in 1998, and a year later the troupe returned with Boom Dot Bust. The Firesign Theatre continued performing into the 21st century, including 2002 appearances on NPR's All Things Considered compiled on the 2003 Artemis label release All Things Firesign. Founding member Peter Bergman died in March 2012 after a bout with leukemia; the other Theatre members planned a "Big Brouhaha" in tribute to Bergman the following month in Seattle. Phil Austin died from an aneurysm in June 2015. ~ Jason Ankeny
full bio

Selected Discography

x

Track List: All Things Firesign

1. An Undermutter Moment

2. "The Grass Roots Gourmet"

3. Crisis In Terror!

4. Beat St. Jack's Famous Accountants School

5. Tips Hotline

6. Mutt 'n' Smutt Are Huntin' Blind

7. The Arts Of Defense

8. More Undermutter Mutterances

9. Pinata! Pinata!

10. Everything You Know Is Wrong! (About Shoes!)

11. Unwanted Workers Of America

12. Hal Stark Is Off The Road

13. No Jokes About America!

14. Nick Danger In Lucky Liability

15. It's Saddam Shame!

16. Beat St. Jack's Baghdad Bush Suit

17. Harry's World

18. S**t Happens!

19. Our Holiday Wine Testing

20. Bob Heeblehauser's Tacomasaur

21. Mutt 'n' Smutt's Scary Sale!

22. Undermutter's Monster Update

23. Inside Cabletown!

24. Mask Your Movies!

25. Hal Stark's Parking Woes

26. Thanksgiving, Or Pass The Indian Please!

27. A St. Nick Dangerous Christmas Eve

28. Goodbyes And Hellos!

x

Track List: Give Me Immortality Or Give Me Death

1. Unconscious Village: Wake Up

2. Eyeballs In The Sky

3. Us Plus: Pork

4. The Celebrity Stalker

5. Sports In Your Shorts

6. Ralph Spoilsport's Going Out Of Body Sale

7. The News Drought Continues

8. Goddess Air Presents "Hullo, Don't Worry! "

9. A Developing Chase Situation

10. Pull My String

11. Princess Goddess Escapes The Celebrazzis

12. Chump Takes Some Hits

13. Polar Pro: Texas Trots

14. Miss Shelob's Feelin' Poorly

15. Unconscious Village: Last Days Sale

16. Mr. Coffee Comes Up Zeros

17. Glacier

18. Gridlock At Homeless Stadium

19. Polar Ice: Party Vertical

20. Going, Going, Gone A La Blonde

21. Sex With My Hat

22. Trippple Ripppoff

23. Night Whispers

24. Bebop And Dwayne Feel No Pain

25. Smokin' Joe Says Farewell

26. Us Plus: Zeros And Ones

27. Chump Makes A Resolution

28. The Doll Drop

29. Radionow Says Good-By And Hello

Comments

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A Firesign Chat!
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Not Insane!
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I want more Firesign Theatre! Please add the greatest albums they made. (How can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all. Don't crush that dwarf,hand me the pliers. & I think we're all bozos on this bus. These are cult classics.
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Discovered them back in the Sixties. Always made me laugh.
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dave53789
If you lived here you'd be home by now. Long live Firesign.
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Everything I know is wrong! These guys changed the way I looked at everything. Funny stuff that requires thought. I love Susan Underhill..A u d r e y Farber...Mel a n i e Haber... Betty Jo Bialoski...I mean Nancy!
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As an old hippie,who weaned on fire signs teat, I must say Dear Friends may I always be a bozo on this bus.Dave Swain
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pandora, please try to add 'how can you be in two places at once when you're not anywhere at all,' 'don't crush that dwarf, hand me the pliers' & 'i think we're all bozos on this bus' - classic firesign that more people need to experience. shoes for industry!
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Nick Danger and The Fups shall live FOREVER!!!
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I guess you don't read this very often - again - you are not playing so many of their good recordings and rely on the post shark-jump material
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PANDORA - this is one very slim and annoying discography. . . t h e best is missing...
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As a radio disk jockey through college and afterwards, I couldn't believe how Firesign crafted radio, film and music conventions into truly inspirationa l and deeply, personally and intellectual l y funny stuff. A very good friend, fellow DJ and later, government agency employee with me would, of course, quote prodigiously from Firesign's material. He once used his radio studio to duplicate Nick Danger, Third Eye, vary credibly. Thank you Curt Stewart. Would have loved to join THAT session.

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