Donald's Encyclopedia of Popular Music
Satirical comedy quartet in the great anarchical American radio tradition of Bob & Ray. Peter Bergman (b 29 November 1939, Cleveland OH; d 9 March 2012, Santa Monica CA of leukemia) was the host of Radio Free Oz, a late night program on KPFK. His father was a journalist on the Cleveland Plain Dealer; his parents had a radio show in Cleveland. He got kicked off the student radio station in high school after announcing that the Chinese Communists had taken over the school. He graduated from Yale and taught economics there and attended the Yale School of Drama, moving to Los Angeles in the early 1960s. David Ossman was Program Director and Drama & Literature Director at KPFK; Ossman also did bits on Radio Free Oz, as did Philip Proctor and Phil Austin. 'We started out as four friends, up all night, taking calls from people on bad acid trips and having the time of our lives, and that’s what we always were: four friends talking,' Austin said in an interview. The wacky albums they eventually made were stream-of-consciousness humour, loaded with word-play and oncure jokes which might not reveal themselves fully until the 30th hearing, if then. The sound effects and the stereo engineering were brilliant and added to the fun.
Their first public performance was an improvisation titled 'Waiting for the Electrician Or Someone Like Him Anyhow' at UCLA's Experimental Arts Festival in 1964, after which they recorded a very different version for the title of an album on Columbia. Near the end of the heyday of comedy albums, their chart entries began with How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All and Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers '69-70, followed by their biggest hits (top 100 albums) I Think we're All Bozos On This Bus and Dear Friends '71-2, then Not Insane or Anything You Want To, The Tale Of The Giant Rat Of Sumatra, Everything You Know Is Wrong (including 'Electrician Exposes Himself') and Just Folks...A Firesign Chat '72-7. Reissues and other albums on Columbia and Mobile Fidelity included 2-CD Return From The Shadows, Fighting Clowns and Nick Danger/The Case Of The Missing Shoe. In the late '90s Bergman, Austin and Proctor were still writing in the L.A. area, Bergman also doing one-man shows while Proctor was an in-demand voice-over artist; Ossman was living in Washington state, producing and directing radio drama. They had presented some reunion live performances and were discussing further projects. Proctor had also posted his 'Planet Proctor" humor collages on the Internet. (Thanks to Garry Margolis for info.)