Peter Bergman, founder of the psychedelic-era comedy troupe Firesign Theatre, died March 9 at age 72, leaving behind a legacy of densely layered, intricate and sly political, cultural and musical humor.
Firesign, which Bergman created when he invited three friends and colleagues to a radio program he was hosting in Los Angeles in 1966, became a cult obsession of the stoned set. In a series of wildly creative recordings from the late 1960s to the early 1970s, Firesign displayed a reckless creativity that never reached mainstream status, yet remains innovative, fresh and clever even 40 years down the road.
Firesign’s first album, “Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him,” came in 1968, followed by “How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Not Anywhere At All?” The latter album introduced the troupe’s most widely known character, “Nick Danger Third Eye,” a surrealistic private eye whose adventures were an homage to everything from film noir to the avant-garde.
The troupe worked together on and off for three decades while all of its members, including Bergman, worked solo. Bergman wrote and produced several one-man shows; “Pyst,” a CD-ROM parody of the video game Myst; and the film “Americathon.” He revived Radio Free Oz as a podcast in recent years.
Bergman, a Cleveland native, graduated from Yale and taught economics there as a Carnegie Fellow. He later attended the Yale School of Drama as a Eugene O’Neill playwriting fellow. — jta