Saturday, June 20, 2015

Nick Danger Has Left the Office

Firesign Theatre member Phil Austin has passed away at the age of 74.

Announcing the news on Facebook, Phil Proctor said it for everybody who loved the guy's work:

Rest in Peace, Regnad Kcin.


Anonymous said...

This sucks!

Capt. Al

Mark said...

He was always ready for excitement, and he was always ready for anything. I loved Firesign, but many of my contemporaries didn't. And I especially loved Phil Austin for Nick Danger.

Firesign did the same thing for radio (when it was king, and prior to the rise of TV) that Jon Stewart does for news: allow listeners (or viewers) to back-contruct cultural history and daily events from very pointed commentary.

About four years ago I drove from Brooklyn to Syracuse with my (now 31 year old) younger daughter and my suhhhh ... suhhhhhnnnnn ... suhhhnnn-in-lllll ,.. her husband and put on How Can You Be In Two Places during the drive. Betty, my daughter, didn't get the references (who could on a first listen?), but she got the timing and watched me for my reactions. Matthew, her husband, who doesn't lack a sense of humor, didn't get the references either, but saw the timing thing as something old fashioned and difficult to "get."

And I thought "getting" Nick Danger in the time of Firesign was a sign of intelligence, even though I would occasionally have to look up some of the more arcane references. Looking back, it may have been less a sign of intelligence than a love of parody.

Either way, Phil Austin, I thank you.

Anonymous said...

Give me immortality or give me death.


Anna said...

Just dug out Austin's "solo" album "Roller Maidens From Outer Space" (other Firesignees were present) and played the classic country song "C'mon Jesus (Show Yourself)". In the crazed fuckery of current wingnutty pseudo-Christianity, it's still relevant.

I guess Firesign never achieved the immortality that Vickie mentions above might be because they utilized contemporary popculture references (anyone remember California's Ralph Williams, who was the basis for Ralph Spoilsport?), and moreso because they were just too damned smart for most people to get, with some exceptions–Principal Poop's speech was a staple on WABX in Detroit. ("Eat it!" "You bet!" "Eat it raw!" "Raw, raw, raw...that's–that's the spirits we have here!") Cheech & Chong were easier to digest for most folks; more's the pity.

Oh, and these days, I live just up the street from a long-gone Los Angeles VW dealership that Firesign did ads for (I think they were aired during the "Howl Of The Wolf Movie" on some local TV station):

They're well worth the watching, and I think a lot of the "Ralph Spoilsport Motors" bit came from those, or was reused from them. The Firesign webpage store has Ralph Spoilsport license plate holders for $10 that I think I'm gonna have to get:

(Go to the bottom of the page.)

Anyway...RIP, Phil. You and the rest of Firesign's wonderful dada comedy saved me in my teens.

Anonymous said...

Sadly, Jack Poet Volkwagen is now a CVS Pharmacy. Mr. Poet passed away a couple of years ago. He was a huge Firesign fan, obviously. He sponsored their radio show on KPPC too. Firesign did the commercials. Not sure, but I think the Ralph Spoilsport bit preceded the Jack Poet TV commercials. They're both circa 1969-1970-ish.

Mr. Poet would also occasionally have airplanes sky-write "Jack Poet Loves You" across the Los Angeles firmament. After leaving the car biz, he got into organic juices and hydroponics.

More Poet ads here:


buzzbabyjesus said...

The Firesign Theater changed my life. I'm rather fond of their later albums like "Boom, Dot, Bust."

Elroy said...

Bummer. I was a freshman nerd at a Los Angeles area engineering college and a senior exposed me to Firesign Theatre. Most of the comedy I had been exposed to was traditional stand ups and sitcoms. Firesign was in large part responsible for the evolution of my appreciation for intelligent and absurd comedy.

I was also fortunate enough to be able to listen to the Hollywood Nite Shift, a weekly Sunday night radio show in LA on KROQ with Austin, Frazer Smith and Michael C. Gwynne. It was some sketches and some improv and as I recall was very funny.

Sometimes the other "bozos" from Firesign would drop in.

Have to dust off the FT discs...