Feb 8, 2014

Firesign Theatre: We're All Bozos on This Bus

The youth counterculture of the 1960s listened to Boomererson Airplane, Donovan, -- and the Firesign Theatre.

They were a comedy troupe consisting of  Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, and Philip Proctor. Beginning in 1966, they performed parodies of mass media on L.A. radio --  tv commercials, soap operas, film noir -- switching from sketch to sketch randomly, with a surrealism that presaged Monty Python's Flying Circus.  

Soon they were releasing comedy albums, with seemingly nonsensical titles that actually take on meaning as the story progresses:
Waiting for the Electrician, or Someone Like Him
How Can You Be in Two Places at Once, if You're Not Anywhere at All?
Don't Crush that Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers
I Think We're All Bozos on this Bus
Everything You Know is Wrong


Roller Maidens from Outer Space (1974) is Phil Austin's solo album.

No gay characters per se, but they skewered everything, including heterosexual romance, the heterosexual nuclear family, even American exceptionalism:

This land is full of mountains, this land is full of mud.
This land is full of everything, for me and Elmer Fudd.

And the fluidity of desire was included gleefully, un-selfconsciously:

Ralph: Look at the muscles on that dude!  He's got muscles in his ears!
Babe: That's Steve Reeves.
Ralph: No.
Babe: There he is!  That's Steve Reeves!
Ralph: No, that's Agnes Moorhead.

But their most important contribution to gay boomer kids was the parody itself.  When Peter Bergman died in 2010, one of the tributes on the Firesign website message board said:



"It was hard being a gay kid a backwater part of the country,  and Firesign made me realize that the world is nuts -- that we are all bozos on this bus -- and I was not the only person who perceived it."

In the album Radio Live Now (2001), the troupe decided to make long-term characters Hal and Ray, news anchor partners, a gay couple. Phil Proctor explains: "we were kind of implying that they were committed to one another for life, and they were living together, and treating all that with complete respect, as a normal aspect of the end of the century in American society."