Peter Bergman (1939-2012)

I know this is a bit late, but I feel obligated to write about the recent death of Peter Bergman. He was one of the four members of the Firesign Theatre. (The others were Philip Proctor, Phil Austin, and David Ossman.) I listened to their records when I was in high school. They had a strong influence on my sense of humor and, in a way I find hard to explain, on my world-view as well. Their records employed a multi-layered, non-linear style of storytelling that was unlike anything I had ever heard before, or since for that matter. It was sometimes said of them that they made the long-playing album into a narrative art from. (They advertised themselves as “the rock band that doesn’t need instruments”.) They also peppered their work with all sorts of allusions to literature, philosophy and popular culture. I honestly believe that the Firesign Theatre made The Simpsons possible.

The Firesign Theatre’s humor was strongly rooted in the 1960’s. They didn’t seem quite as funny in later years. I saw them perform in Boston once, and I found the show a bit disappointing. They mostly did old material, and they didn’t use the stage very well. (Their medium was radio, after all.) I did get to shake hands with David Ossman, however, which was cool.

Still, they made a unique and lasting contribution to comedy. Bergman will be remembered as an innovator.

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