The surreal
5:00 am
Thu April 19, 2012

A tribute to the Firesign Theatre's Peter Bergman

The surreal humor quartet known as the Firesign Theatre is now a trio.

Founding member Peter Bergman passed away March 9th due to complications from leukemia. He was 72, and in recent years lived on Whidbey Island.

Over the past 40+ years, the Firesign Theatre recorded dozens of albums, and often appeared on NPR. Their work pushed the creative boundaries of radio and inspired a generation of broadcasters, including many of us at KPLU.

The remaining members of the group, Phil Austin, David Ossman and Phil Proctor, are presenting a “Big Brouhaha” tribute to Peter Bergman this Saturday night at 7 p.m. at the Kirkland Performance Center

Phil Austin lives near Tacoma and spoke with KPLU’s Dave Meyer.

Peter Bergman was regarded by many as the voice of the Firesign Theatre.

Austin agrees, saying Bergman had a very distinctive voice and "was not a person to disguise himself; he was present in everything that he did and we encouraged that. We liked that. That was our deal with Peter."

Bergman was a master of commercial parodies. You can hear a few examples in our audio interview, including "Loosener's Castor Oil Flakes, with real glycerin vibrafoam!" and the "Trippple Ripppoff Lottery".

The Firesign Theatre first came into being on Bergman's Radio Free Oz show on listener-supported KPFK-FM in Los Angeles in 1966.

Will the group continue without Bergman?

Austin says, "despite Peter's unusual and bizarre death, we're still together and we'll still keep keepin' on, because we carry him around in our heads...we carry each of us around in our heads...and we are committed to the idea that the four of us are a conversation that keeps on talking. We'll just keep on blathering until the last man goes down."

There's no charge for Saturday night's tribute performance, but a minimum donation of $10 is suggested. Austin says the proceeds will help Bergman's daughter, Lily, to complete her college education.

You can learn more about Peter Bergman's life and career at NPR's Fresh Air, The New York Times, and The Los Angeles Times.

Previous Firesign features on KPLU:

2011:  Phil Austin talks about I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus

2010:  Phil Austin and David Ossman make Dave Meyer a very happy guy