The legendary Firesign Theatre is marking “Nick Danger’s 40th Birthday” with a rare series of performances in Southern California at the Barnsdall Gallery Theatre in Hollywood with a one-of-a-kind show they’re calling “Forward, Into The Past!”
Performances are Wednesday, October 14th – Saturday, October 17th
The Firesign Theatre’s creation, “Nick Danger, Third Eye, America’s Only Detective,” was born in 1969, the script written first as a pilot for a radio series but quickly adapted to 1940’s microphones and “new” multi-track recording as Side Two of their never out-of-print second LP release for Columbia, “How Can You Be In Two Places At Once, When You’re Not Anywhere At All?”
The album was released in July of 1969 and introduced Nick and his radio nemesis Sgt. Bradshaw, sleezy weasel Rocky Rococo, old girlfriend Nancy, and Catherwood, the troublesome butler, and, on the flip side of the disk, Ralph Spoilsport, L.A.’s great TV car salesman (“Hiya, friends!”).
The complete Nick Danger Casebook has now been chronicled in the Shout! Factory recently release “The Firesign Theatre’s Box of Danger.”
Danger is Firesign’s take on the hard-boiled detective character, with first-person narration and crazy adventures that often involve mistaken identity, and of course there’s always a dangerous dame. The skits spoof the conventions of those old detective radio shows, right down to the special effects, the sponsors, the on-air host, the convoluted plots and just about anything else that one might have heard on a classic serial.
The opportunity to see the group on stage, where they mix memorable scenes from their recorded works with unexpected twists, new material and improvisation is indeed a rare one.
According to their biography, The Firesign foursome – Phil Austin, Peter Bergman, David Ossman and Phil Proctor – last appeared live on stage in 2005 for only four West Coast dates.
They toured more widely in 1999 to promote the first two CDs in their “We’re Doomed!” trilogy -- “Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death” and “Boom Dot Bust.” The final installment, “Bride of Firesign,” was a Grammy nominee in 2001 and re-introduced Nick Danger and Firesign’s Porgie & Mudhead characters into the cyber-world of FunFun Town.
“Returning to Los Angeles is always a treat for us.” said Ossman, “This is where it all started plus we have a lot of things we’d like to try, including Nick Danger’s latest case from ‘The Bride.”
In 2003, the Firesign’s third album, 1970’s “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me The Pliers” was selected for the National Recording Registry at the Library of Congress, an honor given to recordings that are “culturally, historically or aesthetically significant.”
Only eight of the 200 recordings in the collection are comedy and “Dwarf” is the only studio-produced album in that number. In the Library’s award the Firesign Theatre was referred to as “the Beatles of Comedy.”
Firesign has produced dozens of hours of audio magic – records and CDs, radio programs from AM to satellite, public and syndicated.
The troupe has performed theatrical live broadcasts, political campaigns, parade coverage, some weird commercials and, individually, voices for Disney and Pixar, screenplays, workshops for students of broadcasting and radio drama, news, interview and live entertainment radio at all hours of any day or night, in addition to their unique brands of comedy, delivered through blogs, columns, poetry readings and sometimes even standup.
Phil Proctor is known as “A Man of 1000 Voices,” most notably as “Howard” on the many Emmy winning “Rugrats.”
David Ossman’s and his wife Judith Walcutt write, produce and direct shows for stage and radio, including the Grammy-nominated “50th Anniversary Production of The War of the Worlds” and the Parents’ Choice Gold Medal winner, “The Wonderful Wizard of Oz.”
Peter Bergman has recently developed “Radio Club,” an after-school arts program for at-risk elementary students in Los Angeles.
Phil Austin’s current projects include contributions to The Big Jewel website (“wonderful, edited by some genius or other”) and articles for The Bark (“The New Yorker of Dog Magazines”).
The Firesign’s website is www.firesigntheatre.com
Last year, Shout! Factory released The Firesign Theatre’s Box of Danger: The Complete Nick Danger Casebook, which turns the spotlight on the legendary comedy troupe’s most famous creation - Nick Danger, Third Eye.
The 4-CD box set assembles for the first time the many radio adventures of Danger, Rocky Rococo, Lieutenant Bradshaw and announcer Dwight Yeast, including such legendary skits as “Cut ’Em Off at the Past”, “The Case of the Missing Shoe”, “The Three Faces of Al,” plus a wealth of rare and unreleased items from Nick’s tattered casebook.
Also included is a deluxe 40-page book with rare photos and new essays from all of the Firesign members, in character of course, which shed some hilarious new light on the legacy of Nick Danger, Third Eye.
Shout! Factory is devoted to producing, uncovering and revitalizing the very best of pop culture. www.shoutfactory.com.