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Firesign Press Release - 4/6/2012

Peter Bergman's Big Brouhaha
Firesign Theatre presents...
Kirkland Performace Center, Seattle WA April 21, 7:00PM

Peter Bergman, a founding member of the Firesign Theatre comedy troupe, whose zany pun-loaded skits and absurdist political satire entertained millions of college kids during the 1960s and '70s, passed away March 9, 2012. He was 72.

Born and raised in Cleveland, his parents Oscar and Rita Bergman hosted "Breakfast With the Bergmans," a local radio show. His father also worked as a reporter for the Plain Dealer. Mr. Bergman got a taste of radio work when he was in high school. He lost his job as an announcer on the school radio system after his unauthorized announcement that the Chinese Communists had taken over the school and that a 'mandatory voluntary assembly was to take place immediately.' (Russell Rupp, the school principal, promptly relieved Peter of his announcing gig. Rupp was the inspiration for the Principal Poop character on the Firesign Theatre album Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers.)

He attended Yale University in the early '60s, where he met and formed a lifelong association with Phil Proctor; Phil performed in musical productions for which Peter was the lyricist. After his Yale years, and a short stint in the Army, Peter spent time traveling through Europe and the Middle East, making a name for himself as a playwright and filmmaker.

After his return to the U.S. and a brief stay in New York City, he landed in Los Angeles. It was there that Peter's participation in a fund-raising marathon for Pacifica Radio's KPFK affiliate led to his hosting Radio Free Oz, an all-night radio call-in show which served as the testing ground for the high-spirited Firesign sensibility. Phil Austin was the show's producer; David Ossman was working at the station in another capacity when he became involved with the show; Phil Proctor, who had also relocated to Los Angeles seeking work as an actor, was a frequent guest. In April 1967, Bergman organized L.A.'s first "love-in." What he envisioned as a picnic in Los Angeles' Elysian Park for a few hundred fans turned into an event The Los Angeles Times described as an "Easter Sunday freak-out" for 4,000. He is credited with coining the term "love-in."

Performing as the Firesign Theatre, the four-man troupe recorded their first album in 1967, Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Like Him, which was released in 1968. With each album they produced through the early 1970s, their uniquely surreal brand of humor combined with dense, multilayered plot lines and audio production struck a chord with the late '60s counterculture. A staple of college dorms and parties, their albums were made to be listened to multiple times; new meanings and references could be gleaned from every spin of their discs. When the Library of Congress placed Don't Crush That Dwarf in its National Recording Registry in 2005, they described Firesign Theater as "the Beatles of comedy."

While the ensemble continued making albums for three decades, Mr. Bergman also wrote and produced several one-man shows, including Help Me Out of This Head, a 1986 monologue-memoir that drew on his childhood in Cleveland. He also wrote interactive games including PYST, a CD-ROM parody of the popular adventure video game MYST.

In the mid 1990s, he brought back Radio Free Oz as a web site of short, self-contained original comedy segments featuring Peter and a company of voice talent that included Phil Proctor, David Ossman, Edie McClurg and John Goodman. Although the site folded after a few years, in 2010 Peter again revived Radio Free Oz along with David Ossman. Initially a series of live-streamed web broadcasts, it became a regular daily and weekly podcast. He continued to write and produce podcasts for up until the time of his passing.

Join friends and fans of Peter and Firesign Theatre as they pay tribute to his amazing life at the Kirkland Performance Center, Seattle WA on April 21 at 7:00 pm.

This event is free and open to the public, though there is a suggested donation of $10 to help cover expenses. No ticket is required, and seating is available on a first come, first served basis.

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