Firesign Theater Interview

Interview June 1, 1995

  Frederick C. Wiebel, Jr. is a 45 year old artist and writer from Hagerstown, MD. Fred has turned his attention recently to writing and compiling information on his favorite subjects: early movies, '20s jazz music, blues, rock, comedy and the history of the phonograph and recording process. This love of music and their formats, has manifested itself in his art and writing. Wiebel is the editor and publisher of FIREZINE a fanzine dedicated to The Firesign Theatre. The interviews below are excerpts from extensive interviews Fred is conducting with members of the Firesign Theatre.  

PHIL PROCTOR is one of the Firesign Theatre, and a Hollywood voice artist who's added his talents to hundreds of major motion pictures, particularly animated movies and television series: The Lion King, Alladin, The Tick, Smurfs, Tazmania, Rug Rats, General Hospital, Martin, Fresh Prince, etc. He had starring roles in Tunnelvison, A Safe Place and Lobster Man From Mars. He also appears in 1,000s of commercials for both radio and television and can be currently seen chomping down on Tacos in an Ortega Foods ad. His satirical observational series on odd news bites, Planet Proctor is featured in several nationally distributed magazines and numerous web sites and Firezine: The Official Official Magazine Of The Firesign Theatre.

  PHIL AUSTIN was the producer and on line engineer of the "RADIO FREE OZ" show that brought Peter Bergman together with the other future members of THE FIRESIGN THEATRE. He contributed his unique writing skills to the group, adding an inherited musician's surreal and silly sense of humor and a Philistine approach to the new age comedy espoused by the others. His 'NICK DANGER' character helped establish the necessary album sales to keep THE FIRESIGN THEATRE afloat on a major label, and in the record bins, opening the doors to their best work. When not concentrating on FIRESIGN THEATRE material, commercials, back packing, auto touring, and watching sports on TV, AUSTIN spends his happily married time with his beautiful wife Oona, a Hollywood commercial food stylist, and their assorted dogs, and in the pursuit of the great American novel, now reaching epic proportions, his tentatively called "BEAVER TEETH", expanding "THE TALES OF THE OLD DETECTIVE, AND OTHER BIG FAT LIES", into printed book length, and forming the newly started automotive fiction, "THE DOMESTIC 500". He was interviewed on various phones from his retreat on Fox Island, WA, and his home in Los Angeles, CA, over the one year period; 8 / 1994 - 8 / 1995.  
Prince Fred will be providing LBC with more interviews from the Firesign Theatre as they become available. is deeply grateful to the gracious Prince for his generous contribution to this site.

PP - Phil Proctor

PH - Phil Astin

FW - Fred Weibel, Jr.



Well I bought a car from Lord Buckley's son. He was one of the most mezmorizing car salesman I ever confronted. I bought a car for my first wife. He was right around the corner on Sunset Dr., selling exotic old cars. And his dad of course was an exotic old character. Buckley did something amazing. He did a couple of things that I really admired, that blew me away when I was a kid. No. 1: He popularized the comic rhythms of sub-culture which was called primarily then, like, Jazz. OK? And he did it with such a loving sensitivity and such a joyful appreciation of the freedoms that the rhythms of that life-style created. With such a sensitivity to the comic potentials of the rhythms that Jazz and Jazz talk allowed, that he showed himself to be a real genius. He created a new comic vocabulary out of an existing underground form of communication and infused it with tremendous comedy. And the other thing that was really wonderful that he did was the he delt with forbidden topics. You know? He made comedy from Jesus, the Naz, and he made comedy from the Marquis De Sade, so that he was fearlessly creating comedy. It was almost like 'I dare you' kind of comedy. And the fact that he did it in Jazz and poetry gave him a tremendous edge over any other comics who might want to touch those subjects. It was impossible for them to get anywhere near him in what they could do. So, I thought he was like a David slaying the Goliath of society when he was out there doing his stuff. I think that's why he had such tremendous popularity. I never got to see him live, I only heard his records and at that time he was only like one of those party records. He was in the underground of comedy. He had the same kind of panche' that Lenny Bruce had and everything. He was much more zainily accessable and still is. He's not everybody's cup of tea. Some people just don't get it. Just don't get it. But for those of us who do, I'm so happy that his work lives on. Every once in awhile, I'll listen to him to just kind of plug in again to the tremendous power of his eccentric word play.

Did you listen to Lord Buckley when you were young?

Of course, yeah. At that time for instance there was him and Lenny Bruce, that was it. This was pre-Carlin, pre-Pryor, pre-that generation of guys. In those days, right, if you listened to Dylan then you listened to Lord Buckley. It was part of that kind of folk night club scene. I don't believe I ever met him.

Your dad was a jazz musician, did he know him?

No. My dad was in a much straighter part of the music business. In fact, wasn't really in the music business in Los Angeles.

Did Lord Buckley have any influence on you?

Oh yeah. I mean its hard to say but its like saying does Bruegal have any influence on you. You don't remember specifically what. If someone asks you that about your work, you say, "Yeah sure." Number 1 you don't wanna be left out. Number 2, it must be true, it must have, because anyone that you love has got to be some kind of influence on your work, right? I guess. I just always loved him. It was that music thing. I was firmly convinced that the root of the kind of humor that I wanted to do, didn't have anything to do with Bob Newhart or theater or anything. It had something to do with music. In particular, it had something to do with jazz because that's where I first ran into it, 'cause of the guys my Dad played with back in Fresno. The first time I ran into these kind of jokes, this kind of humor and all this kind of stuff. I just always associated it with jazz and who better to associate with jazz than Buckley.<p>
So to me it was just like I was the audience. If there was an audience made for this guy, it was me. I never tried to do that kind of stuff particularly. In the late 80s I did a character called Twilight McSleep, who would show up on the radio late night who's sort of like Buckley. Come to think of it, a lot of the history of my radio show Hollywood Night Shift in the late 70s, we could have dedicated a lot of that to Lord Buckley. Because what we're getting at is that feeling of a kind of late 50s early 60s convertible top down California listening to the radio and being into Chet Baker records. It's a hipster thing for guys of my generation, and I'm 56 now. For guys of my generation, that was it. And things that were it, when you're at that age, stick with you your whole life. You know?

Do you still listen to him at all?

No, I don't and I haven't heard his stuff in years, and I'm not a big radio listener either, so I probably would have. It's something that like lives in you. My memories of it are probably more important to me than the stuff itself. Similar to my memories of listening to Spike Milligan and "The Goon Show", which were like a big deal to me but which I don't listen to now.