Obituaries

Peter Bergman, RIP

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Peter Bergman, best known for being a part of the comedy quartet called the Firesign Theater, died last night of complications from Leukemia. He was 72. As I wrote in Reason a few years ago, the records produced by Bergman's group "told dense, non-linear stories, with scenes linked by the logic of dreams, puns, free association, late-night channel-surfing, and a psychedelic anti-authoritarianism that wasn't so different from the libertarian politics of The Prisoner or the Illuminatus! trilogy. (At one point the Firesigns mulled the idea of optioning Illuminatus!, but they never followed through.)" I should have added that the albums were also extremely funny, yielding to repeated listenings in a way that the typical comedy LP does not.

The group's members also dabbled in stage and film—Bergman and fellow Firesign Phil Proctor wrote the play that became the 1979 movie Americathon, praised here by Reason's own Tim Cavanaugh—and they had an innovative radio career, which I discussed in my 2001 book Rebels on the Air. For a small taste of their humor, here's an improvised radio bit they did in the early '70s:

For an exceptional example of their more extended work, try Everything You Know Is Wrong (1974), as good a window as any on the days of Erich von Däniken and Evel Knievel. Bergman plays at least seven roles in it, as well as co-writing the script. I'm sad at the thought that he won't be writing and performing any more.

NEXT: Remy: Cough Drops-The Mandate (featuring Sandra Fluke)

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  1. “In the next world, you’re on your own.”

    Will be missed.

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  2. I still know mcuh of Firesign by heart; their work explained much about the world that was otherwise incomprehensible to a teenager.

  3. NARRATOR: Los Angeles, he walks again by night. Out of the fog, into the smog. (cough) Relentlessly, ruthlessly (NICK: I wonder where Ruth is), doggedly (woof woof), toward his weekly meeting with the unknown. At Fourth and Drucker he turns left. At Drucker and Fourth he turns right. He crosses MacArthur Park and walks into a great sandstone building (NICK: ooh – my nose). Groping for the door (ring) he steps inside (ring) climbs the thirteen steps to his office (ring). He walks in (ring). He’s ready for mystery (ring). He’s ready for excitement (ring). He’s ready for anything (ring). He’s… (answers phone)

    NICK: “Nick Danger, third eye.”

    CALLER: “I want to order a pizza to go and no anchovies.”

    NICK: “No anchovies? You’ve got the wrong man. I spell my name Danger!” (HANGS UP).

    CALLER: “What?”

    1. Classic.

    2. Oh, you mean Nancy.

  4. How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?

  5. e records produced by Bergman’s group “told dense, non-linear stories, with scenes linked by the logic of dreams, puns, free association, late-night channel-surfing, and a psychedelic anti-authoritarianism that wasn’t so different from the libertarian politics of The Prisoner or the Illuminatus! trilogy

    RIP, but, uhhh…no thanks. I generally hate stoner junk.

    1. “God have mercy on their heathen souls.”

    2. Would it help to know that in his stoner days, Rush was a huge fan on the group?

  6. Peter Bergman, a power so great it could only be used for good or evil.

  7. Simply Put:

    J-Men Forever

    One of the funniest movies ever made and a testament to Bergman’s and Firesign’s genius

  8. What a great loss! I’m glad I was able to see Firesign perform a couple years ago (and several times in the 70’s). My favorite Peter Bergman bit, as “Jim” addressing the virtual president from “I Think We’re All Bozos On This Bus”:

    Mr. President, it’s the bees and spiders again! They stole my food stamps and sold them to the rats, and I tried to get down to my car for to honk the horn for help, but the snakes is guardin’ it for the cockroaches! I go back upstairs, but the spiders has jammed the police lock! I ain’t been inside for a week, and I know my that wife is sleepin’ with the bees!

  9. Whoa no way man, did he really died? Wow Icant believe it dude.

    http://www.Got-Privacy.tk

  10. With Ivan Reitman, one of the funniest libertarian-leaning writers working. I still have lots of Firesign Theater on my iPod. He will surely be missed.

  11. Not Insane!

    What is this that appears before me? Is it a ghost, or a goat? A ghost of a goat, or both?

    Not Insane!

    AA, a.k.a. Not Ed

  12. And this big dog, see, with blinking lights, comes over the hill.

    I’m not a drinking man, Mr. Cox, but I swear to God I saw it!

  13. Antelope Freeway, one mile.

  14. “Aw, he’s no fun, he fell right over!”

    The early albums in particular were simply brilliant: psychedelic humor of the highest (pun intended) order.

    R.I.P.

    1. Their albums were better than their radio stuff because on the latter they tended to laugh at each other’s jokes.

  15. Domini Domini Domini, you’re all Catholics now

  16. Don’t touch that vertically challenged person, hand me the pliers!

  17. “Please follow in your guide as we say the following words in Turkish.”

    I’ve been a FireHead since early 1972 and could probably recite several album sides from (Dr.) Memory. A Nick Danger quote is in my email .sig.

    Yeah, I’ll miss him.

    Not Insane! Not Responsible!

    … Hobbit

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  19. Hubie Boobies. Hubie tubies. Boobie Chew WILL grow on you. (Like kudzu.)

    It was wonderful to be in high school when the Firesigns were putting out fresh, LP-based comedy. That was truly a golden age and they were a hubie part of it. I appreciated it at the time and I REALLY appreciate it in hindsight. RIP Peter Bergman.

  20. I am La Brea man.
    Wife and I live in pits.
    We discover pain and boredom.
    And he to use hands in self defense.

  21. Firesign’s work was certainly anti-authoritarian and pro-civil liberties, but none of them would describe themselves as libertarians. I think they would all self-identify as progressives. Peter Bergman once told me that libertarianism was “too cold.” Though they were equal opportunity satirists regarding left and right, they were planted squarely on the left themselves. That said, their work is for anyone whose mind is free or who wishes to be.

  22. Aw, he’s no fun, he fell right over.

  23. R.I.P Peter. Be sure to check out (and like) a review of his greatest works: http://culturecatch.com/litera…..gn-theatre

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