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WHYY TV12 produces first-ever television special for the legendary Firesign Theatre comedy troupe
By Josh Holzer

   If the line, "I want to order a pizza to go, and no anchovies," makes you laugh, and if Nick Danger, Third Eye is your idea of a hard-boiled gumshoe then you know Firesign Theatre. If you don't get it, don't worry, you will. Firesign Theatre, America's longest running comedy team, TV12 and Rhino Records have partnered to produce
Weirdly Cool, a collection of new and classic sketches, archival footage and commentary on Firesign Theatre from many of the country's favorite comedians.
   Weirdly Cool will have its local and national debut on Wednesday, November 28 at 8 p.m. when the four-member comedy troupe appears live that evening in WHYY's studios. November 2001 marks the 35th anniversary of the comedy quartet of Peter Bergman, Phil Austin, Phil Proctor and David Ossman. The four formed Firesign Theatre while working in FM, the radio frequency of choice for the counter culture of the 1960s. Combining what was considered subversive satire and very intelligent, multi-layered comedy routines, they carved out a niche for themselves in the world of humor. "They are geniuses on radio and record. They do a very intelligent form of comedy and are a great match for us," says David Rubinsohn, WHYY-TV director of broadcasting and executive producer of the show. "Firesign Theatre has never been on TV until now," explains Rubinsohn, who was instrumental in bringing this project together. "All of the guys have worked for various public radio stations. No one could do them justice but PBS."
   Rubinsohn, a fan of the team for years, described the night in August 2001 when they taped before a live audience at Television City in Hollywood California as magical. "It was like working with The Beatles of Comedy. This [Television City] is where The Carol Burnett Show was, and The Price is Right is shot, so you know the production values are first class," Rubinsohn said.
   Most people have a favorite comedian or troupe they listen to over and over again. This program is no different. In fact, the material has so many layers, listening again may be a necessity. "Sometimes it wasn't until the twentieth listen that I'd get the joke. This either says they're brilliant and subtle, or I'm not too sharp," Rubinsohn suggests.
   Intermingled with the classic bits, such as a commercial for Loosener's Castor Oil Flakes, and clips of experimental film the four were involved with in the 1960s, are new routines and humorous takes on the world today. Instead of becoming a nostalgia act over the years, Firesign Theatre has remained topical and fresh. Entertainment Magazine recently named them one of the "Thirty Greatest Acts of All Time."
   Rubinsohn said his experience working with the team gave him, as a diehard fan, a whole new perspective on their unique dynamic as a unit. "It was a rush for me because I've only ever heard the results. I've never seen the process. Watching them as they create together is amazing, all four minds are in sync and the end is just beautiful."
   Weirdly Cool will debut Wednesday, November 28 at 8 p.m. on WHYY TV12.

(Reprinted, by permission, from "Applause", WHYY's Magazine for Members in Philadelphia, PA.


Hagerstown, MD: Just when you thought it was safe to go outdoors without spending your hard returned tax dollars for yet another Firesign related CD, the impervious Firezine has come up with more ear candy for your soul! Begged out of the archives of Phil Proctor comes a live recording of the infamous Proctor & Bergman show "Clark Wintergreen, Clark Wintergreen", which is kind of like "Death Of A Salesman" meets "Don't Crush That Dwarf". Lovingly re-mastered and lushfully packaged, this is the only known board stereo recording that has survived of this long thought lost production. Painstakingly re-vitalized and digitally cleaned-up, this riotous rarity can now be savored for eons to come. "Clark Wintergreen, Clark Wintergreen" is a 'stick to the roof of your mouth' story of a salesman, (Bergman) of the new computer manufacturer mergered with Roto Rooter, The Rooter Computer Company headed by Australian, Jim Fishead (Proctor). All hell breaks loose when Wintergreen sells computers that don't work to the emergency control department of a nuclear power plant. It's Proctor and Bergman at their best recorded around 1/7/77 in Denver, CO.


   "Work continues on the artwork for both the BRIDE and WC projects; PB is in SF right now, taping Robin Williams reminiscences, having just returned from NY and John Goodman doing the same. I also heard that we are honing in on George Carlin. We start rehearsals at CBS next Tuesday, so I guess this thing is really going to happen.
   "After a 2-minute capsule AV history of our last 35 years (good luck), the present running order of our "Greatest Hits" - interspersed with FST ads and pre-recorded guest hosts - is as follows (but still subject to change): DANGER/DWARF/HCYB/B.D.B 'GOODBYES'."

TOKYO JAPAN: June 27th marks the CD release of Cass Elliot's first solo album; DREAM A LITTLE DREAM. Produced by John Simon and recorded in 1968 at "The Farm", unreleased for over 33 years, this album includes the title track, as well as material and performances by John Sebastian, Graham Nash, Steven Stills and the late John Hartford. Of particular interest to Firesign fans is the participation of Phil Austin adding his voice between tracks and performing as a carnival barker on "Jane The Insane Dog Lady". Oona Austin also sings on the album. For ordering information for this Japanese import please email or check out the Mama Cass website . And for the story of the Phil Austin collaboration go to Firezine #4.


Rumors have it that major changes are in store for the lack of Firesign material available on the market. The guys are making an all out effort to get more product out. Current plans are to form a Firesign Theatre Records label and release formerly available only as mail order CDs for in store sales. Distributed by Ryko, re-named with consistently re-styled graphics designed by Andy Thomas, titles may include "In The Firezone", "Pink Hotel", "Anythynge You Want To", "Fighting Clowns" and "Just Folks". The deal is for 1,000 copies each with Lodestone doing the manufacturing.

   DVDs will be offered as well through Whirlwind, which releases "Back From The Shadows", enhanced with a video group interview, any day now.

   Rumors also persist that a deal with could lead to the licensing of some of Firesign's Columbia recordings to offer through their website The burgeoning on-line company has just released a brand new Jonathan Winters CD and is making big moves in the comedy market. FT titles mentioned include "Giant Rat of Sumatra" and "Everything You Know Is Wrong".

   Firezine is also included in the mix to release more sanctioned hard core fan oriented items this year such as a limited edition of "Let's Eat" (5 CD set) "Joey"s House" (FT live in '79 2 CDs), "Live At Stoney Brooke" ('70 2 CDs), "Best Of The Firesign Bootlegs" (2 CDs), "FT Radio Rarities", Austin & Ossman's "Radio Laffs Of 1940" (2 CDs) and perhaps some Proctor and Bergman concerts "Clark Wintergreen Clark Wintergreen" or "Americanthon". Firezine Productions also plans to offer up special editions of "Fighting Clowns Live" with a full version of the UMD show with an extra disc of interviews, "In The Firezone" with more Seattle '99 Shows, photos and rehearsal clips disc, and some other items to raise enough funds to print the remaining issues.

Firesign Theatre: Back From The Shadows

ID: WHRL2005DVD - $29.95 - Not Rated
UPC: 688321200523 - 158 min. - 2001
Preorder: 2/27/01 - Rykodisc
Street: 4/27/01 - Comedy
Full Frame - Color - English - 5.1 Dolby Digital

"The Firesign Theatre" - This exclusive 60-minute video documentary on the long-lived cult comedy group is an impromptu self-interview performance by Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman, and Phil Proctor, discussing the history of their ensemble and the high points of the concert presented in this package. "Back From the Shadows" - A 90 minute audio-only chapter that captures the group's most recognizable material recorded live in Philadelphia, Washington D.C. and Berkeley when they hit the road in the fall of 1993 to celebrate their 25th anniversary. Originally released in 1994, this recording has been out of print for 5 years and is now available again exclusively in this DVD package. Tracks: At the Border, Beat the Reaper, He Walks Again By Night, The Old Same Place, Hold It Right There!, Ralph Spoilsport Motors, On the Antelope Freeway, The American Pageant, Bringing the War Back Home, On the Funway, The Breaking of the President, Doctor Memory, Tirebiter Wakes Up Hungry, Pastor Flash, High School Madness, Parallel Hell, The Court-Martial Scene, George Gets a Wakeup Call, Toad Away.

Production Stills; Cast/Crew Biographies; Discography

2001 Image Entertainment, Inc.
Special thanks to Brian Curtis for this Heads Up!

Czech out the cover art here!



Recorded off the board and sanctioned by the 4 or 5 to help get Firezine out of debt, this rare 60 min. performance from the tour of the same name, prologued a showing of the film "Everything You Know Is Wrong". The audience submitted questions and the boys snappily answered them by performing bits from their repertoire; "Anything You Want To", "Waiting For The Electrician", "High School Madness", "40 Great Unclaimed Melodies", "All Star Crowley", "Bird Of Prey Motors", and a full length version of "Exorcism In Your Daily Life".
$15 ppd.


Starring Phil Austin and David Ossman and recorded off the board for broadcast 2/29/1976, this hilarious previously unreleased 60 min. send up of a 1940's radio show written by Ossman, Austin and Richard Procter also features musical numbers by "Cocktail" and new liner notes by David Ossman.
$15 ppd.

Available for a limited time only!

Send checks, money orders made out to
PO 585
HAGERSTOWN, MD 21741-0585

David Ossman Czechs In


   This year so far has had little in the way of FT work . . . I have been busy on two major projects, the 4-hour adaptation of The Wonderful Wizard of Oz for the LA Children's Museum which will be completed by the end of September and distributed on radio by Public Radio International with national broadcast between Halloween and Thanksgiving. Website to be done by the Museum. Proper official announcements very soon and a presentation to be made at the Public Radio Program Director's Conference in San Diego Sept 21 (I think is the date). Great cast - Annette Bening, John Goodman, Mark Hamill, Rene Auberjonois, Phil Proctor and a dozen others. This is an Otherworld Production, co-directed and produced by my wife Judith Walcutt.
   Otherwise, I have been working on collecting my various writing into volumes suitable for various kinds of publication. I have a 16 thousand word collected essay on FT called "FT - An Intimate Geography." Also, two volumes of Tirebiter Radio plays - each about 100 pages of script and totalling about 37 thousand words. Also, three volumes, each about 50 pages, of my Selected Poems 1960-1999. I'm hoping to finish an accompanying CD for the poems before the year's out. Of course, the poetry is closely connected with FT - read on the radio and stage, performed by, and in some cases dedicated to the group or to individuals or friends.
   . . . I'm most interested in writing about the history of FT and less interested in writing new comedy material not intended for use in the group efforts. I've been writing for so many years now that I'm happily engaged in collecting it and making sure that it's not lost in my files 20 years from now. The WWOZ adaptation was to a great extent new writing, and if I wanted to start work on something big it would be another Tirebiter Mystery Novel (The Flying Saucer Merder Case) or extended radio play. FT's show on XM radio next year will absorp a lot of new material, so I am planning ahead for that.
   Otherwise, ya know, man - life is full and happy and my kids and grandkids and Mom and the rest of my family are what I care most about.


A First of Julie Message from Proc:


Latest breaking news on the 4 or five:

I'm very busy in spite of the strike (as well as walking picket lines and attending meetings when I can); FST is deep in the throes of overseeing the design of the pictoral and other elements for the DVD-A release of Boom Dot Bust for Rhino/Warner in the Fall. And Andy Thomas is back on board to help us!

The "Moose and Squirrel" movie has opened to excellent (and well deserved) reviews; and DO and Judith just cast me as 'Toto' in their CD adaptation of "The World of Oz" for the L.A. Children's Museum (Arf!). Mellie and I will also be playing a farmer couple (shades of Funnk and Mundaigne).

PS: The cast is becoming more star-studded every day with Harry Anderson as the Wizard, Robert Guillaume as the Lion and so on. Contact Otherworld for details as the recording starts on July 9th. I'll take pics as usual as I'm supposed to be there every day!

Add to the NEWZ:

Melinda just finished a part in the independent film "Sex and a Girl" featuring Robert Hayes and produced by Antaean John Walcott's company.


The Last Time We Heard from the Pooper:


A quick update:

Finished the DVD mix last week, waiting to set a mastering date. Reviewed the fotos for cover and booklet. Still waiting to hear if we're going to find a theatre (like the Wadsworth) to perform in NOV/DEC in LA. We're also both busy adding character voices to Yuri Rassovsky's NPR Sci-Fi series for Hollywood Theatre of the Air. For example, I just did several parts with Tom Poston, Hamilton Camp and Marion Mercer in "Tomorrow and Tomorrow and Tomorrow" by Kurt Vonnegut, Jr.; and DO and Melinda and I co-starred in "Collector's Fever." Great fun.

Melinda's TV ads for Saturn LS and Geiko Insurance are also presently on and running. For the nonce, I'm running wild taking care of my 21-year-old daughter and 85-year-old Mom who're out here for a visit; and yesterday I added voices to "TOY STORY 2" at Disney for director John Lassiter. Wait til you see it!

To be continued, I'm sure...


Latest On BOOM DOT BUST From Proc


We had photos taken Monday of us in red and blue jackets holding big lit firecrackers for the cover and us in "smoking jackets" and gunpowder burn makeup for the back of the booklet! Messy but funny.

We mastered the stereo mix yesterday. Back to Sunburst now for the (DVD) 5.1 mix.

Fotos of the Foto Session will be forthcoming, as well!


A Panoramic View


Thanks to Bill Bowles of aspectmedia (, you can view a QuickTime VR panoramic shot of the guys in the studio.

NOTE: You'll need the QuickTime 4 plugin, and a browser capable of supporting it. You'll find a link to get the plugin download on the aspectmedia Firesign page. There's a Quicktime 4 plugin available for the Mac OS or Win95. You'll also need a modern browser (IE v4 or later, Netscape 3 or later).

Bill and his crew recorded a slow pan of the entire studio with a video camera, then used special software to convert the video into a single 360-degree rotatable still shot. Click on the images of any group member and a second browser window opens with an additional still picture and autobiographical paragraph.

Click here to jump to the page containing this amazing picture.

NOTE: Clicking on either of the aspectmedia links above will take you out of the Firezine web site. You can return to the Firezine site by clicking on your browser's "Back" button (posspbly more than once depending on how far you stray from Firezine).

P.S. Phil Proctor would like to personally thank Mr. Bowles for salvaging his Mac system when the hard drive died last month.

A Little Note From Proc


We are starting the stereo mix on the morrow. We need to deliver the mixe(s) as soon as possible as we have a cover photo session scheduled for the 9th. More to come, including more photos. PS: It's now "Boom Dot Bust"-no "dots".


New Firesign Theatre Album Named: BOOM.BUST


The case of the missing title is solved. Firesign's new recording is called "boom.bust". No matter how you type it, caps or lower, it's OK as long you have a period, which may be difficult for the males of our species. After a merry-go-round of titular spin the bottle, the Firefunsters have kissed off such nom de plumes as: "You Just Don't Get it, Do You?", "You Just Don't Get It, Do I", "Meanwhile In Billville", "Big, Big, Big", "We're All Cats In this Bag" and just plain "Billville", but when the lips parted, they blurted "BOOM.BUST".

Rumors were spreading like melted butter among the toasted fireheads but the official official word came down from the mountain, well Beverly Hills, during a late night phone call from Firegods Ossman and Proctor.

Ossman promises that the new album will be just as confusing as their classic work with less of a linear story line than "Give Me Immortality".

"Boom.Bust" is 30 min. into the recording decks of Sunburst Studios.

Rhino Heads Bronson and Foos made a rare studio appearance bringing along a full media brigade snapping up photos and vid for publicity and DVD insertion. Proctor has been borrowing a digital camcorder and shooting up the place. Also a "Dear Friends" video crew came, saw and captured some action.

Support tour discussions have been bandied about with the general consensus being that a series of LA engagements will be the main thrust.

Stay tuned for more info...

"Firesign's "Billville" CD Release Date Set"


Though the title has not been finalized, Rhino has set a projected release date for the CD mix of Firesign Theatre's new album for 10/19/99. The group is about half way through the recording and is writing on it for the next couple of days before going back into Sunburst Studios on the 15th. They are also getting together the booklet copy for a 7/15 delivery. Hugh Brown will again be the art director for the project and photo sessions are being scheduled.

According to Proctor:


"Mobile Fidelity Fellers Feel-out Firesign For Far-out Fidelity Format"

Mobile Fidelity, who re-issued Firesign's classic Columbia albums on CD in the late 80's, have recently contacted the group, hoping to re-release their "Back From The Shadows" double live CD of the '93 re-union tour on a gold based disc. The hard to find set has been languishing in the cut-out bins for several years. This time around the digital recording will be re-mastered to bring up the sound quality to their current Higher-Fi levels. You might not be able to tell the difference but your dog will love it. Other projects are being discussed.

Message from Proctor: "Running With Scissors"


Dear Friends:

We got good reviews in both Backstage West ("Pick of the Week") and L.A. WEEKLY:

"RUNNING WITH SCISSORS" Monologist Tulis McCall is very funny, always elegant and on target, with a cheerfully jaundiced view of the world and the undeclared wars that flourish among families. As one of her creations observes, "Depression is a sign that you've got a firm grasp on reality". In a city that sounds like Boston, she zeroes in on two seemingly unrelated sets of characters. At a bus stop, a curious collection of strangers gathers: a fast-talking wiseacre, a bulimic girl, an elderly Irish Buddhist, a Southern matron, a teenage boy, a woman headed to the park to bury her dead cat and a demented woman at odds with her multiple personalities.

Meanwhile, nearby, three generations of a large Catholic family prepare to send the reluctant grandparents on an all-expenses-paid cruise. "Why can't they just buy us a new roof?" the grandmother mutters.)

Eventually, the two groups prove to be linked, albeit tenuously. In her best moments, McCall recalls the late, great monologist Ruth Draper. But she's more interested in assembling a collage of quirky characters than in tight dramatic structure, so the piece emerges as a bit less than the sum of its excellent parts.

Philip Proctor provides lovingly unobtrusive direction. Court Theater, 722 N. La Cienega Blvd., W. Hlywd.; Tues.-Wed., 8 p.m.; thru July 7. (310) 418-8547. (Neal Weaver)

Rocky Rococo Meets Rocky the Flying Squirrel


Phil Proctor writes:

I will be performing a cameo as a TV Floor Manager opposite Robert DeNiro as Fearless Leader in "The Rocky and Bullwinkle Movie" at Universal next week from 3/9-3/16. It is a live/animated feature where R&B are cartooned and all the other characters are real with Renee Russo as Natasha and Jason Alexander as Boris. Lots of other stars, including Carl Reiner, by the way, are involved and I'll get more info to you when I can.

Phil Proctor Gets Bagged On Tonight Show 3/3/99

Jay and Phil 

Jay Leno and 'Cashie' (Phil Proctor)

On January 15th, Phil Proctor appeared as "Cashie the Bag" on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno. Click to hear a 1:21 audio clip:

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