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Firesign Theatre / Open Lines

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Date Host Ian Punnett
Guests Phil Proctor, David Ossman, Open Lines

Legendary comedy troupe Firesign Theatre are releasing their first album in 25 years - a new double-LP compilation including 83 minutes of previously uncollected funny bits from their notorious "Dear Friends" era of freeform Los Angeles radio broadcasting. Original members Phil Proctor and David Ossman joined guest host Ian Punnett (Twitter) to discuss the group's history and the new recording. Proctor described Firesign as a four-man satirical comedy troupe who achieved success on Columbia Records in the late-1960s. The group was treated like rock stars by the record label, toured the country, and even played Carnegie Hall, he added. Proctor credited the rise of FM radio for introducing Firesign to an even wider audience than their albums.

"The reason, I think, we're in the Library of Congress is because... Firesign was uniquely positioned to document and comment on what was going on at the moment (late 1960s to early 1970s)," Ossman said. He traced the formation of the group to 1966, when Proctor and Ossman, along with late founding members Philip Austin and Peter Bergman, began improvising together on Bergman’s program Radio Free Oz. There were no other groups doing political/satirical comedy, Ossman noted. Proctor also revealed their album, "Everything You Know Is Wrong," was partially inspired by people like Art Bell, founder and the original host of Coast to Coast AM, who were not afraid to investigate the more bizarre aspects of the human experience.

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Open Lines followed in the latter half of the show. Dave in Phoenix, Arizona, told Ian he once got to see Philip Proctor and Peter Bergman (of Firesign Theatre) perform live at a local venue. Dave also suggested Oscar-winning actor and comedian Robin Williams was likely influenced by the comedic stylings of Firesign. "A lot of Robin's shtick could have been lifted directly from [the absurdist humor of Firesign]," he said.

Gordon from Plant City, Florida, shared his theory about babies not going directly to heaven upon death. According to Gordon, since babies lack freewill to hear and acknowledge the gospel message they go someplace in the interim to await the millennium reign. They return in physical bodies and get the opportunity to accept or reject the gospel during this time, he explained.

Cary in Canada recounted the occasion he took a road trip to California and visited the spot where James Dean had his fatal car crash. As he stood by the concrete memorial there and eerie silence fell over the area. "All of sudden things got quiet, there were no cars... it was uncanny," he said. Years later, Cary was on driving around Salt Spring Island in British Columbia when by some strange coincidence he saw an exact replica of James Dean's 1955 Porsche 550 Spyder — the car Dean died in.

Pictured above: Firesign Theatre's "Grammy-eyeball hat look" from 2000.

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