“And stopped on a Dime! …Unfortunately, the dime was in Mr. Rococo’s pocket.”
Along with Mel Blanc, Groucho Marx, Peter Sellers and George Carlin, the Firesign Theater forged my comic sensibility amidst a sea of suburban blandness. I spent the best parts of high school reciting chunks of their inspired comic jazz – to peels of laughter from my friends – thinking along that I was as clever as they were… ’cause I understood all the jokes.
Turns out, I wasn’t. Years of listening later… I STILL don’t think i’ve gotten ALL the jokes. But I get more every time!
They pack more comedy into 60 seconds than… uh, professional comedy packers. They are a singularity. A comic black hole, so densely packed with material, that once you breach the Firesign Event Horizon, there is no escape. Along with Phil Proctor, Peter Austin and David Ossman, Peter Bergman was one of Four Horsemen of the 60’s LA apocalyptic comic-awakening.
Is there a funnier 28:20 on the planet than “How can you be in two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?”
Years after high school, while living off my own version of humor, I decided to get my car washed in Santa Monica. Mostly because it was dirty. My car, not the City.
And I was IN Santa Monica – it was 5pm on a Friday, the Antelope Freeway would be impassible.
I dropped off my car, and took a seat on a wooden bench in the sun and looked over the rack of dingy newspapers by the door. Some kind of lefty, insurgent rag with ads for medicinal pot, botox and all sorts of surgical rejuvenations.
Next to the rack, waiting for our cars or something like them, an older bald dude read one of the papers. He looked up for a moment, and a shock of recognition hit me in the face like the hot kiss at the end of a wet fist. It was Peter Bergman, THE Peter Bergman, not wearing a flimsy Burnoose, but simply jeans and a shirt.
One of comedy’s Beatles was sitting 12 feet away. I had to say something… but what?
Obviously, I had to parrot back my favorite line from his body of work… but which one? Which character? Betcha Noone’s EVER done that before. I walked over, quietly rehearsing my top 5…
I stuck out my hand and croaked – in my own dumb voice, “Excuse me, are you Porgie?”
He turned and smiled broadly… the most unassuming genius I’d ever met. ‘Course, I never met Einstein.
The next 25 minutes was my personal comedy hall of fame induction. Peter was as funny, smart, humble and intelligent as we want all our heroes to be. I gushed, asked questions about their production process – in stead of payment, they were given unlimited studio time – which explains all the tracks and finesse in their work – and asked even geekier comedy questions. If he felt trapped by a nerdy fan, he hid it well.
Just as we were about to become BFF’s, a staccato horn broke the spell. We shook hands, and he drove away… Forward into the Past!
If you are not familiar with the Beatles of Comedy, #firesignnews, I gotta piece of advice for you, go to http://firesigntheatre.com/montage.html – it’s like they’ve built the perfect time machine… with REAL gylcerin Vibrafoam!