Bittersweet Musical Comedy

in Daily Programme

by Elrik Merlin on Saturday, 10 March, 2012

Today we present a programme of musical comedy and more, but with a certain sadness.

The death occurred yesterday of Peter Bergman, in Santa Monica, CA. He was 72, and suffered from leukaemia.

Bergman was one quarter of the remarkable Firesign Theatre, whose albums and performances have amused and delighted wide audiences since the late 1960s.

Garry Margolis recalls that The Firesign Theatre came together in around 1967 at the Los Angeles radio station KPFK, part of the Pacifica group of stations renowned for their innovative programming and support of free speech. Bergman was was the host of a midnight free-form programme called Radio Free Oz. His cohorts included KPFK’s program director David Ossman, Phil Proctor — Phil and Peter were classmates at Yale — and Phil Austin, who was also connected with the station. Their astrological signs were all fire signs, hence the name. The Firesign Theatre’s stream-of-consciousness style was, especially initially, very much influenced by the UK’s Goon Show. The first performance of the Firesign Theatre was at UCLA during an Experimental Arts Festival in 1967: they performed Waiting for the Electrician or Someone Like Him Anyhow, a work that bore little or no resemblance to the version released on their first album for Columbia a year later.

Today, we honour Peter Bergman’s memory with a programme of musical comedy — from Borge to Weird Al, from Satie to Flanders & Swan, and a great deal more. In addition, every half-hour, we’ll feature some of the best sketches from the Firesign Theatre, including material from their first album, Waiting For The Electrician Or Someone Like Him. Many of these pieces are in the form of radio and broadcasting parodies, so they’ll no doubt fit rather well. The items are deeply rooted in United States culture and include many topical references of the time they were created. We do hope you enjoy this tribute, and remember a great and very funny man.

Then join us later for the ZBS Radio Hour where we feature two new adventures including something rather unusual from Ireland.

Today’s programme is presented by Elrik Merlin. To listen, click here to start your player, if your browser is configured to do so. In the United States, please use


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