Who's that ugly dwarf with his hand in your mouth?
January 31, 2008 12:16 PM   Subscribe

Los Angeles! he walks again by night... ...out of the smog, into the fog. Relentlessly -- ruthlessly -- ("I wonder where Ruth is?") -- doggedly! ("Woof woof!" *) For the past 42 years the Firesign Theatre, the best comedy group of the 1960's, has been putting their art in cans from Canada to Kashmir. Up for the Grammy in 1998 and 2001, Firesign at their best combined clever, multilayered writing with pitch-perfect satirical performances as Rocky Rococco, Ralph Spoilsport, Art Holeflaffer, Hemlock Stones, Uh Clem and Barney, and many more. Back in the day, it would have been astonishing if at least one of your peers couldn't recite all of The Further Adventures of Nick Danger, Third Eye, including the sound effects.

"Iiiiiiiit's -- candied apples and ponies with dapples, you can ride all day! / It's girls with pimples and cripples with dimples / that just won't go away! / It's spics and wops and niggers and kikes / with noses as long as your arm! / It's Micks and Chinks and Gooks and Ginks and Hunkies -- honk honk! - that never left the farm!"

That's America, buddy! So wake up -- to your only logical choice: Me. George Tirebiter. Firesign Theatre.

* "Ha ha ha ha ha ha ha ha! Woof woof woof woof! I am -- ectrician! --obody's sweetheart!"
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit (91 comments total) 25 users marked this as a favorite

 
He's not insane!
posted by tommasz at 12:17 PM on January 31, 2008


Who's that ugly dwarf with his hand in your [more inside]
posted by hermitosis at 12:18 PM on January 31, 2008


Yeah, but I am or I wouldn;t have hung the whole thing out on the front like that. *sigh* First post... typical n00b.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:19 PM on January 31, 2008


"we're all bozos on this bus"

/speaking of metafilter when it wasn't even a gleam in Matt's eye!

I saw Firesign live in Ann Arbor back in the 70's, and walked away a changed and confused individual...

....back in the saddle again.....
posted by HuronBob at 12:20 PM on January 31, 2008


Whew! Thanks, whoever did that. Live and learn...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:21 PM on January 31, 2008


I've seen references to these guys before, but never followed it up. I assumed it was some boring old person thing. But as a recently-minted boring old person myself, I checked out YouTube (you know, so I'd know what to talk about in the old folks home). Pretty funny, though a little pointlessly surreal, which wears thin.
posted by DU at 12:34 PM on January 31, 2008


Our labours now completed, the great detective Hemlock Stones and I, his patient doctor and biographer, returned directly to our dodgings at 99 Bakersfield Street. Thankful, that for tonight at least, Londoners might sleep forever under a thick blanket of English industrial fog!

I can't count the number of times I've listened to The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra and Don't Crush That Dwarf (Hand Me the Pliers).

Anyone have a tin of Uncle Sigmund's Peruvian Cocoa Powder?
posted by Floach at 12:36 PM on January 31, 2008


I was given a casette tape of the 'Uh, Clem' thing by a boss I had back in high school. I hated it at first, but would sometimes put the tape in to listen to while I painted or worked on something tedious (I had no radio, no TV, and a limited tape selection). It took me a while to get all the jokes, they just kept coming so fast, but within a year I was a huge fan.

These guys are great.
posted by Pecinpah at 12:40 PM on January 31, 2008


Offer not good after curfew in Sectors R or N.
posted by MrFongGoesToLunch at 12:40 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Rah rah rah, that's the spirit!
posted by schoolgirl report at 12:44 PM on January 31, 2008


I've been wondering for years what the hell I heard on Dr. Demento as a teen. I've Googled in vain for Porgie Trilobiter, as best as I could remember. Now I know what that was.
As his evening unfolds, the listener hears "excerpts" from the fictional movie High School Madness starring Peorgie Tirebiter. This film is a parody of shows like the Aldrich Family radio show and of 1940s youth in general, interspersed with commercials and other staples of late-night television (including a televangelist, a talk show and a war movie) as Tirebiter randomly changes channels.
Thanks, Metafilter. The sun is shining again.
posted by stevil at 12:46 PM on January 31, 2008


Pretty funny, though a little pointlessly surreal, which wears thin.

The true Firesign experience is an aural one, letting their worlds build up in your head while you listen. Their best works are album-length stories (skits? performances?) with so much going on in the background and as asides that you have to listen multiple times to get all the gags. Although I've seen them a few times and they shine "live." Among the group's solo works, Phil Austin's Nixon-era Roller Maidens from Outer Space and Proctor and Bergman's sci-fi inspired TV or Not TV stand out as being pee-your-pants funny in places.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:46 PM on January 31, 2008


Shoes for Industry!
posted by mosk at 12:54 PM on January 31, 2008


Shoes for the dead!
posted by MtDewd at 12:56 PM on January 31, 2008


And don't forget -- Firesign Theatre's Big Book of Plays!
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 12:59 PM on January 31, 2008


What chance does a returning deceased war veteran have for that good paying job, more sugar and that free mule you're dreaming of? Well, think it over. Then take off your shoes. Now you can see how increased spending opportunities mean harder work for everyone...and more of it, too!
posted by Floydd at 1:00 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


"Adam-13's incipient negritude will come as a pleasant surprise to his honorary aquarium parents Ralph Bunch and Ida Lupino."

"Yeah, I bet it will."
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:04 PM on January 31, 2008


Oh, gods. "How Can You Be In Two Places At Once When You're Not Anywhere At All" is one of the greatest comedy albums of all time, from the ALL HAIL MARX AND LENNON cover all the way through. I am now incapable of hearing someone say "Boy, it's nice out" without putting on a W.C. Fields impression and replying "Yes, I think you ought to leave it out."

"Rococo! How did you get in here? You don't have a key!"
"No, only half a key. I had to split it with the sound effects man."
"Thanks, Rocky!"

posted by Faint of Butt at 1:04 PM on January 31, 2008


Watch out for that entrenching tool!
posted by Yer-Ol-Pal at 1:04 PM on January 31, 2008


No, that's my mescaline...
posted by Thorzdad at 1:07 PM on January 31, 2008


Don't get excited.
posted by hal9k at 1:15 PM on January 31, 2008


The Howl of the Wolf Movie, presenting honest stories of working people as told by rich Hollywood stars.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:20 PM on January 31, 2008


Daddy... daddy, I've lost the Lincoln Logs.
posted by 40 Watt at 1:25 PM on January 31, 2008


My gang could do most of "I think we're all Bozos on this Bus" while they were....altered.
I still quote from it all the time.

Follow yellow rubber line.

I also use the name "Betty Jo Beoloski" when ever I need a fake name to use in an example .
posted by cccorlew at 1:26 PM on January 31, 2008


I took these tapes to school in the 70s and played them back during recess until, indeed, I could recite them minutes at a time unaided. My peers didn't really understand.... a pattern that holds true even now.
posted by seanmpuckett at 1:28 PM on January 31, 2008


Close "B" Clothes mode. Prepare for shift-simulfax hue and form. Prepare for mirror clone!
Clone me!

(PASSWORD. ILLEGAL ENTRY)

Clone me, Doctor Memory!

(THANK YOUUuuuu....)


(Oh the hours I spent with those LPs....)
posted by paddbear at 1:33 PM on January 31, 2008


Wow. I checked Amazon and they have "Bozos" side 1 and side 2 as MP3s for $1 each.
Go away now... See you later.
posted by cccorlew at 1:35 PM on January 31, 2008


No, those are just excerpts... I already checked...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:40 PM on January 31, 2008


I was right! Everything I knew was wrong!

"Everything You Know Is Wrong" was late to the party, came out years after their heyday but brilliant- easily stands with their best.

In the Ben Franklin category (the only President of the United States who was never President of the United States) I nominate "How Time Flies" David Ossman with the gang, Wolfman Jack and a slew of others.
posted by pointilist at 1:47 PM on January 31, 2008


And my favorite bit of trivia is that Nick Danger is a riff on Rocky Raccoon.
posted by pointilist at 1:51 PM on January 31, 2008


Metafilter: No broken glass, no air.
posted by Stonestock Relentless at 1:53 PM on January 31, 2008


Pass the lord and praise the ammunition, this is great.
posted by boo_radley at 2:01 PM on January 31, 2008


One of my biggest regrets of the past year is that Demonoid got blown away before I could snatch all the Firesign Theatre rarities that were showing up there (like the complete radio series that Dear Friends was compiled from).

And my favorite bit of trivia is that Nick Danger is a riff on Rocky Raccoon.

The whole thing? Other than having a character called Rocky Rococo and a joke that ends with "but everyone knew her as Nancy" I can't think of any similarities.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 2:03 PM on January 31, 2008


I'll never forget "Lady O' Spain Self Blinding Eye Shadow With Magic Puncture Pencil." Whenever I'm tired of listening to my "Organ Leroy and the St. Louis Aquarium Choir" albums I break out the Firesign Theatre. No one ever took advantage of the magic of stereophonic sound like they did. Listening with headphones and a buzz is one of my fondest memories.
posted by waltb555 at 2:07 PM on January 31, 2008


"How Can You Be In Two Places At Once..." is to a large extent responsible for my state of mind from about 1984 through the mid-90's or so. What a densely, beautifully and intricately bizarre piece of aural sex. To this day I crack random lines from that or Nick Danger constantly, to the general bafflement of people around me who have never heard of Firesign.

If you lived here, you'd be home by now!
posted by Aversion Therapy at 2:09 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


And don't forget to wash it all down with some Bear Whiz beer. It's in the water!
posted by Gungho at 2:10 PM on January 31, 2008


No, those are just excerpts... I already checked...

Jeeezzz. I hope your wrong. It says side 1 and side 2, and the length looks about right.
I've downloaded them, but haven't played them yet.
posted by cccorlew at 2:11 PM on January 31, 2008


My God, it’s still warm!
posted by languagehat at 2:11 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


We are old. So, so old.
posted by tkchrist at 2:16 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


Porgy Tirebiter!
posted by doctorschlock at 2:23 PM on January 31, 2008 [1 favorite]


And no Buddhist writers, either!
posted by tommasz at 2:24 PM on January 31, 2008


My dad currently has my Firesign records and refuses to return them. Being a child of the 80s, I don't think he thinks I'm worthy. RUDE.
posted by rokabiri at 2:43 PM on January 31, 2008


I've posted to MetaFilter before about Puzzling Evidence and their extensive KPFA archive of past shows, but did you know there's a - dare I say - conspiratorial connection between the Quivering Brain and the Firesign Theater!? Yes dear friends! It's all there plain as day if you've got eyes to hear and ears to see. Look at it! Texas is still paying for the death of John Kennedy, my friends! It's true. Of course any relation to this guy is entirely coincidental, but there's some relation also to David Byrne. Look for the pipe! You won't see it, but it's there!
posted by ZachsMind at 2:44 PM on January 31, 2008


... and there are hamburgers all over the highway in Mystic, Connecticut.

I started listening to Firesign at the age of 8, when my brother left behind a box of their records on his way to college. Now I'm a single guy who spends too much time on MeFi. Class action suit, anyone?
posted by Kinbote at 2:47 PM on January 31, 2008


Offer not good after curfew in Sectors R or N.

They never come up into the hills.
posted by Listener_T at 2:55 PM on January 31, 2008


My aunt was a corporate lawyer for many years, and a big Firesign fan. Once, after preparing for a huge case, the other party settled unexpectedly and she remarked, to nobody in particular:
"They're no fun, they fell right over."
posted by Listener_T at 3:00 PM on January 31, 2008 [3 favorites]


As a huge Firesign fan, I kind of wanted this post to be a little linkier. So, I'll take it upon myself:

The Firezine Archives
Planet Proctor
George Tirebiter
Phil Austin's Blog of the Unknown
The Mark Time Awards
posted by Horace Rumpole at 3:33 PM on January 31, 2008 [2 favorites]


Oil from Canada, gold from Mexico, geese from the neighbor's back yard, boom boom! "Winter Wonderland? Hmm, Tropical Paradise! *click* Wow . . . what a groove, a tropical paradise!"

Saw them live in Phoenix in the early seventies sometime. Only thing I remember is one guy off to the side of the stage in a flashing spotlight, saying "Nice Motel . . . Nice Motel".
posted by Standeck at 3:45 PM on January 31, 2008


The broken bones . . . the broken homes . . . the total degradation of . . . The Little Guy

And then there's the long line of weeping Indians leaving Rancho Malario to make room for you. . .
posted by rdone at 3:56 PM on January 31, 2008


As someone who spent the 70's at no more than a single-digit age, I know a suprising lot of these--thanks to my Dad.

I suppose I should thank him for the two-foot high stack of old National Lampoons, also.
posted by sourwookie at 4:30 PM on January 31, 2008


What's all this brouhaha?
posted by motty at 5:03 PM on January 31, 2008


Sir, are you nuts?
posted by Kid Charlemagne at 5:05 PM on January 31, 2008


What's all this brouhaha?

Brouhaha? Hahahahahahahaha... You're stuck here!

Oh, sorry, my FST fandom just crossed wires with my MST fandom.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 5:13 PM on January 31, 2008


Oh gods, you're missing my favorites, that I've been wanting to re-find forever. "J-Men Forever" (the movie that was the progenitor of things like Kung Pow) and the classic "Eat or Be Eaten"!
posted by erisraven at 5:15 PM on January 31, 2008


"I deduce we're about to be visited by an American ingenue from upstate New York."

"My goodness, Stones! How the deuce do you deduce that?"

"Simple, Flotsam -- the taps on her shoes resound to a frequency produced only by a unique alloy of aluminium and magnauseum, manufactured in Chicago, but shuffled off to Buffalo."

---

"Let's just look at the extras on this fabulous car: wire wheel spoke fenders, two-way sneeze-thru wind vents, star-studded mud-guards, sponge-coated edible steering column, chrome fender dents, and factory air-conditioned air from our fully factory-equipped air conditioning factory. It's a beautiful car friends, with doors to match! Birch's Blacklist says this automobile was stolen, but for you friends, a complete price: only two hundred and ninety-five hundred dollars, in easy monthly payments of thirty dollars a week twice a week, and never on Sunday!"
posted by rifflesby at 5:17 PM on January 31, 2008


Sorry I'm late to this thread -- I've been defoliating the victory garden. If I could get some work out of that boy of yours, I'd have the bunker finished by election day! (I still pretty much have the entire album committed to memory, word for word, though I haven't put it on in years)

My entire sense of humor as an adolescent was formed by Python & Firesign albums -- just about the best part of growing up in the 70's. And they were startlingly prescient about technology, the media, and American politics in the 25 years since, and I love the way they nailed the "New Age" movement before it even had a name. Beyond their drug-induced non-sequiturs is some really incisive satire. Boom Dot Bust and Give me Immortality... aren't too bad, either.
posted by Devils Rancher at 5:23 PM on January 31, 2008


And, of course...
Shadow Valley Condoms. If you lived here, you'd be home by now.
posted by Thorzdad at 5:32 PM on January 31, 2008


It makes me so happy to see all you other Firesign Theatre lovers. When I discovered "Don't Crush that Dwarf" in the early 90's, it absolutely blew me away.

Porgy Tirebiter!
Just a student like you!
(PORGY:) "Like me?!"
Just a student like you!
(Father:) "Stop singing and finish your homework !"
Just a student like you! ooooooooooo..."
posted by Auden at 6:19 PM on January 31, 2008


i am made of sad.

a dear friend of mine used to own and operate Lodestone Media, which was -- among other things -- THE place to get old (and newer) FST releases.

sadly, lodestone closed their virtual doors last year. a truly sad day for radio theater.
posted by CitizenD at 6:21 PM on January 31, 2008


Why, that's just a two-bit ring from a Cracker Back Jox!
posted by krinklyfig at 7:07 PM on January 31, 2008


Far out, Catherwood, just roll a few bombers and leave 'em on the end table.
posted by rdone at 7:34 PM on January 31, 2008


Let's go forward, into the past. My introduction to FST came when I worked part-time in college, cleaning paintbrushes and sweeping and such backstage at the theater. The tech theater guys were way into Waiting for the Electrician and used to play it over the PA while they were working in the shop. Much like this thread, it got so we could just greet one another with phrases like "I've just invented the taco!" and so forth.

Which was really annoying to everyone else, and just as bad as the Python-quotation disease that affected all of us young geekoids. But what stuck with me about Firesign (and motivated me to go out and get Don't Crush that Dwarf, which has since had a powerful hold over my imagination) is how much more they offered than the hilarious neural short-circuits the routines and jokes constantly hit you with. The more you listened, the more there seemed to be something by turns sinister, revelatory, and even moving in those routines. The vignettes on side one of Waiting sneak up on you -- even the broad cultural satire in each one is off-kilter enough to make you feel like the other shoe is going to drop any second. And then side two comes along like you fell asleep listening to side one and just started dreaming. And it's not a particularly nice dream, but one of those that, when you wake up, leaves you feeling as if you had almost learned something important about your life.

Don't Crush that Dwarf is like that all the way through, and I Think We're All Bozos. And parts of Everything You Know is Wrong...(Bob Hind knows something really awful, I'm convinced of it).

Upon reflection, I suppose the above is obvious to anyone who likes the records. But if you're wandering in here wondering what the hell the fuss is all about...
posted by BT at 8:14 PM on January 31, 2008


Antelope Freeway 1 mile.
posted by hal9k at 9:28 PM on January 31, 2008


... just as bad as the Python-quotation disease that affected all of us young geekoids ...

true dat. firesign theatre was the american monty python, with obscure american cultural references (most of which soared over my clued-out midwestern canadian head) in place of obscure british cultural references.

that said ...

the aztecs invented the vacation!
posted by psychoticreaction at 10:08 PM on January 31, 2008


...not in any way want to put myself in a confrontatory position either with the United Snakes, or with Them. And you can believe me, because I never lie and I'm always right. So wake up!--and take a look at your only logical choice. Me. George Tirebiter.

I got Don't Crush That Dwarf and read Gravity's Rainbow in the same summer. I'd blame those two cultural artifacts for everything that is wrong and right about me now, if only I could say who "I" are....
posted by scarylarry at 11:16 PM on January 31, 2008


SInce this is an election year...

Papoon for President! He's NOT INSANE!
posted by paddbear at 2:27 AM on February 1, 2008


Antelope Freeway, 1/2 mile.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 4:57 AM on February 1, 2008


Dogs flew spaceships!
posted by languagehat at 6:07 AM on February 1, 2008


What was one is now two. What was two is now 4...
posted by Fupped Duck at 6:10 AM on February 1, 2008


Antelope Freeway, 1/4 mile...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:21 AM on February 1, 2008


Antelope Freeway, 1/4 mile.
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2008


D'oh!
posted by Faint of Butt at 7:43 AM on February 1, 2008


God damn it to hell, I love me some FST. My father introduced me to this when I was about 12-13. Since then, I've surpassed him in fandom.

And for the record, I feel like The Tale of the Giant Rat of Sumatra is my favorite.
posted by grubi at 9:06 AM on February 1, 2008


I don't know about that Willard... he doesn't know any good knots. And I don't know any good gags...

Oh, and -- Antelope Freeway, 1/8 mile.
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 9:59 AM on February 1, 2008


Antelope Freeway, 1/16 mile.
posted by Spatch at 10:06 AM on February 1, 2008


The coolestest thing about the FST had to be the value per dollar of their albums: unlike oh, say, 99.9999999% of comedy albums, they stayed teh funneh. 100 replays guaranteed or your humerous back! No other fucked up drug humor collective can make this claim! I always contended that this was because they were essentially musicians rather than simply actors or spoken word guys or comedians. It was the physical sounds themselves and the rhythm and cohesion with which they were presented that made up the bulk of their art and a big part of its humor.

The Pythons took over my own circle's quote-a-thon by the late 70's (perfidious Albion strikes again!) but the Firesigns' influence lives on in the between-band oleos on seemingly half the rap records in existence.

And just to get this over with:

Antelope Freeway 1 planck length
posted by tspae at 10:54 AM on February 1, 2008


Antelope Freeway 1 planck length

Flagged as "Not playing along".
posted by Horace Rumpole at 10:57 AM on February 1, 2008


Sorry to be late ... I was distracted by the sunrise ...

...paisley again.
posted by aldus_manutius at 11:30 AM on February 1, 2008


AND I remember figuring out, [SPOILER] at age 15, that the Electrician was really Frank Acne, Jr. :-)
posted by grubi at 11:47 AM on February 1, 2008


A few years ago I was fortunate enough to attend Hal Wilner's extravagant tribute to the Four or Five Crazy Guys® at Royce Hall at UCLA. It was treated, as are all of his productions ( Stay Awake, Lost in the Stars) with a mixture of reverence and irreverence. Here's a link to the Variety review:

Keep 'em Flyin'!
posted by Listener_T at 12:27 PM on February 1, 2008


Apparently my Linkin' did die in vain. Help?
posted by Listener_T at 12:29 PM on February 1, 2008


Antelope Freeway, 1/32 mile...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:46 PM on February 1, 2008


tspae said: I always contended that this was because they were essentially musicians rather than simply actors or spoken word guys or comedians.

I understand why you'd say that, but their songs are really never more than pretty simple (which is not to say that I don't love Nasi Goring and Switchblade Pitchforks, for example) and their playing is rudimentary at best. (As songwriters they do shine.) I think the key is that they were all essentially radio guys, with a deep understanding of sound sclupting, timing, voices, presentation... even their LP-based YV parodies have to work on an aural basis. Most of their video work isn't as fresh, with the notable exception of Proctor and Bergman's hysterical J-Men Forever ("Look at your boobs. Now look at me.").
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:52 PM on February 1, 2008


Urk -- sound sculpting and TV, not YV. *sigh* Edit facility, some day? Maybe? So that we don't look like fucking tards out here?
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 1:53 PM on February 1, 2008


Anybody got anything for an acid stomach?

Thanks, Guy_I!
posted by DesbaratsDays at 4:02 PM on February 1, 2008


"You wouldn't happen to have any groat clusters, would you?"
posted by Sassenach at 5:24 PM on February 1, 2008


God Almighty, I'm hungry!
posted by languagehat at 5:54 PM on February 1, 2008


Holy Mudhead Mackerel!!!
What a great thread..........
posted by sgobbare at 9:57 AM on February 2, 2008


Antelope Freeway, 1/64th mile...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 11:22 AM on February 11, 2008


Antelope Freeway, 1/128th mile.
posted by Horace Rumpole at 12:39 PM on February 11, 2008


Antelope Freeway, 1/256th mile...
posted by Guy_Inamonkeysuit at 7:53 AM on February 21, 2008


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