The Firesign Theatre
Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death
Maybe it's the generation gap. Maybe it's simply been a long time. Or maybe the Firesign Theatre comedy troupe's first recording in 20 years, Give Me Immortality or Give Me Death, simply isn't funny.
I remember laughing at my dad's collection of Bill Cosby and Tom Lehrer albums when I was kid, which is round about the time the Firesign Theatre first started its parodying ways. And I enjoy a good comedy album just like the next guy, going through childhood and young adulthood by laughing my ass off to albums by George Carlin, Rodney Dangerfield, and yes, even bits of Jerry Seinfeld's recent debut CD. And I love Monty Python, to whom this group is often compared. Well, guess what, it just ain't funny.
Firesign bills itself as RadioNow, "the station so up-to-the-minute that its format changes every commercial break" -- an obvious nod to the further compression of popular culture. The broadcast is set on Dec. 31, 1999 (apocalypse alert!), complete with DJ Bebop struggling with constant format changes, sportscaster Chump Threads, and co-anchors Ray Hamberger and Harold Hiphugger struggling through a slow news day. I wish I could even give you examples of the Firesign's humor so you can be the judge, but I'm afraid it's you-had-to-NOT-be-there to appreciate it. What we have here is failure to communicate in any humorous way.
Not that their insight isn't accurate, parodying stalkers, self-help, the treatment of the homeless, and cult of personality. Great. Now where's the laughs?
If you want good radio parody, see if Harry Shearer's Le Show is appearing on your local NPR station. This Firesign Theatre is going down in flames. Rhino Records, 10635 Santa Monica Blvd., Los Angeles, CA 90025; http://www.rhino.com
--David Lee Simmons.