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1.1.1) The Four or Five Crazy Guys: (Firesign Theatre)


This article is from the Firesign Theatre FAQ, by Niles D. Ritter ritter@earthlink.net with numerous contributions by others.

1.1.1) The Four or Five Crazy Guys: (Firesign Theatre)

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)


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