The 40th anniversary of "I Think We're all Bozos on This Bus"

Nov 16, 2011

Back in 1971, the surreal-humor group, The Firesign Theatre, released one of its most popular albums: I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus. Three members of the quartet ... Phil Austin, Peter Bergman and David Ossman ... now live in the Puget Sound region. The fourth member, Phil Proctor, resides in Southern California.

All four will be marking the 40th anniversary of “Bozos” in shows this Friday and Saturday at the Kirkland Performance Center

Phil Austin (aka Nick Danger) came to the KPLU studios and shared some of his memories with me.

Bozos is about a trip to the Future Fair, a rather Orwellian theme park. The protagonist, Clem (played by Phil Proctor), boards a bus full of BOZOs (the Brotherhood of Zips and Others) on its way to the fair.

Once inside, Clem uses his expertise with computer operating systems to wreak mischief with the fair's holograms and animatronics.

Clem is one of the first computer hackers in popular culture

Many of the commands Clem uses to hack into the fair's main computer were authentic; they came from the DEC PDP-10, a popular mainframe computer system of the time.

Phil Austin says the Firesign Theatre performed at a lot of colleges in those days. While on campus, Phil Proctor would rummage through the trash cans, looking for ideas. He found a lot of computer printouts, and that's where the commands came from.

For more Firesign Theatre on KPLU, check out my extended 2010 interview with Phil Austin and David Ossman.

The Firesign Theatre also gave several performances on NPR's All Things Considered in 2002. You can hear those segments at the NPR website.