Peter Bergman

“We are sad to report the passing of Firesign Theatre founding member and Radio Free Oz host, Peter Bergman. He left us this morning due to complications from leukemia. We will post more information as it becomes available.”

As of this writing, it’s not on the website yet…

…so check f’book.


Dear Friends – Your thoughts and blessings will help us and Peter get through this passing. This was completely unexpected. I spoke to Peter on Tuesday morning when he told me he had leukemia – others knew before us, but he’d kept it quiet for 6 months. When I spoke with him he said he was tired and very low. He went into the hospital Tuesday night and died at 7am this morning. I just got off the phone with the LATimes obit writer. I told her that Peter changed the world – at least for all of us. Fortunately Judith and I are in LA and will see the family this evening. We love you all and promise to keep you laughing as long as we can, after the tears. David (Ossman)


Peter Bergman was born in Cleveland, Ohio, the day after Russia invaded Finland and the day before Winston Churchill (Peter’s hero) turned 65. Peter’s comic career began in the sixth grade, writing comic poems with his mother for library class – a penchant that developed into co-authoring the ninth grade humor column “The High Hatters,” and his own creation “Look and See With Peter B.” for his high school newspaper.

Peter’s audio career was launched in high school as an announcer on the school radio system, from which he was banished after his unauthorized announcement that the Chinese communists had taken over the school and that a “mandatory voluntary assembly was to take place immediately.” Russell Rupp, the school primciple, promptly relieved Peter of his announcing gig. Rupp was the inspiration for the Principle Poop character on “Don’t Crush That Dwarf”.

While attending high school, Peter formed his first recording group called “The Four Candidates,” turning out a comedy cut-up single titled “Attention Convention,” parodying the 1956 democratic convention. Released on Buddy records, it received air play in Cleveland and Pittsburgh.

At college, Peter was managing editor of the Yale comedy magazine. He wrote the lyrics for two musical collaborations with Austin Pendleton, both of which starred Phil Proctor. He graduated as a scholar of the house in economics, and played point guard for the liberal basketball league whose members have since lost their dribble but not their politics.

Peter spent two graduate years at Yale as a Carnegie teaching fellow in economics, and as the Eugene O’Neill playwriting fellow at the drama school. After a six-month stint as a grunt in the U.S. Army’s 349th general hospital unit, he went toBerlinon a Ford foundation fellowship where he joined Tom Stoppard, Derek Marlow and Piers Paul Read at the Literarisches Colloquium Berlin. There he wrote and directed his first film, “Flowers,” and connected with the Living Theatre – a major influence on his art.

Peter worked briefly in London with Spike Milligan and the BBC before returning to America in 1966. Back in theU.S., he secured a nightly radio show on Pacifica’s KPFK inLos Angeles: “Radio Free Oz,” around which the Firesign Theatre coalesced and gestated.

Peter coined the term “Love-In” in 1967, and threw the first such event in April of that same year inLos Angeles. That event ultimately drew a crowd of some 65,000 people, blocking freeways for miles. This so impressed Gary Usher, a Columbia Records staff producer, that he offered the Firesign Theatre their first record contract.

In the 1970’s, Peter diversified his comic career as the president of a film equipment company. He also helped produce a machine for viewing angio cardiograms and measuring the blockage of the arteries of the heart.

In the 80’s Peter turned to film and tape, producing the comic feature “J-Men Forever” with Phil Proctor, as well as producing television shows that featured various members of Firesign.

Starting in 1995, Peter began touring the country as a “high tech comedian”, delivering lectures and keynote speeches to computer oriented companies and conventions. He worked on publishing the web site for one of the candidates for Mayor of Los Angeles.

His latest venture, in association with David Ossman, started in the summer of 2010: the podcast revival of Radio Free OZ.


Go to this link to read what amount to a legacy comments page, and if much of it reads like gibberish to you, this entry might help: “I still will slip in a line from their album into conversation… to see if others know about them. It’s a bit like a shared secret.”


For those of you who don’t know the work of FT, or if you do but haven’t seen their Jack Poet Volkswagen commercials, scroll down and watch a half-dozen or so.

P.S. I think I need a big “5” sign.

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