R.I.P. Peter Bergman

The Firesign Theatre
Firesign Theatre

Satirist at Firesign Theater Dies at 72: “We started out as four friends, up all night, taking calls from people on bad acid trips and having the time of our lives,” Mr. Austin said in a phone interview Friday. “And that’s what we always were: four friends talking.”

Mr. Bergman and his friends recorded their first album, “Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him,” in 1968, followed the next year by “How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All?”

By 1970, their mordant humor and their mastery of stereophonic recording techniques had made them to their generation of 20-somethings what Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert are to today’s (if Mr. Colbert and Mr. Stewart had a weakness for literary wordplay, psychedelic references and jokes about the Counter-Reformation).

Their records employed sound effects in ways considered pioneering in audio comedy at the time. More generally, they were considered important forerunners of comedy shows like “Saturday Night Live.”

Ed Ward, writing in The New York Times in 1972, described the third Firesign album, “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers,” as “a mind-boggling sound drama” and a “work of almost Joycean complexity.”

“It’s almost impossible to summarize any Firesign album,” Mr. Ward wrote, because most of their albums were so filled with “intricate wordplay, stunning engineering and use of sound effects, breakneck pacing and, of course, a terribly complex story line.”

When the Library of Congress placed “Don’t Crush That Dwarf” in its National Recording Registry in 2005, The Los Angeles Times described Firesign Theater as “the Beatles of comedy.” (via NYTimes)