To his legion of fans he’s the voice of Babe (the Everyman), Lt. Bradshaw, Artie Choke and Mudhead. To the Library of Congress he’s co-founder of the comedy troupe The Firesign Theatre and a national treasure. To hundreds of kids in underserved schools in and around Los Angeles he’s “the Radio Club man.” To a lucky audience in Mount Shasta on Wednesday he will be a daring, funny and enlightening soothsayer. He will be Peter Bergman.
Bergman will be appearing at the intimate Stage Door Cabaret in Mount Shasta this week in a (very) rare solo stage performance. The last time he trod the boards as a solo was for his one-man show, Help Me Out Of This Head in 1986.
Not that he can’t handle it on his own, after all he’s a Yale scholar, a Carnegie Fellow, high-tech guru and a fairly decent point guard — depending on the competition.
Since hitting the airwaves in late-’60s Los Angeles, Bergman has been entwined in the cultural landscape, commenting on it as he helps to invent it. It was he who coined the phrase “Love-In” while organizing the first one in 1967. His work as a founding member of the Firesign Theatre has garnered him accolades and Grammy nominations. His contributions to medical science include work on the tools that enable cardiologists to read angiograms. Pretty impressive for a guy who plays a character named Chump Threads.
Despite his astounding resume, chances are, if asked, he would tell you he’s most proud of the work he does with L.A. area kids with the program Radio Club. Bergman founded Radio Club to help children floundering in underserved schools find their voice. The idea is simple enough — give kids a microphone, a few sound effects and a lending hand, then stand back. By teaching youngsters about improvisation, conveying ideas, writing and acting you soon discover that despite economic circumstances, these kids can produce stunning work. The boost in self-esteem and the effect of learning to tap into their creative selves has resulted in higher scores in standardized testing and in improved grades. Students have a blast as well, a nifty little side-effect if making people happy has been a lifelong pursuit.
On Wednesday night at the intimate little Stage Door Cabaret Cafe (seats about 60), Bergman The Social Observer and Commentator Who Just Happens To Be Funny As Well will show himself. A recent show in Ashland left his audience not only exhausted from laughter but spurred to thought as well.
You see, Bergman’s work has always operated at several levels. Satire and parody with a large helping of forward-thinking and idealism. He and his fellow Firesigners have also been eerily right-on when it comes to predicting the future. They foresaw not only cable TV, personal computers and interactive media but even gave us a glimpse of our troubles in Afghanistan in their musical play Fighting Clowns. Bergman’s so close to the mark in observing the past and foreseeing the future that he’s been sought by high-tech industry to give lectures on where we are, where we’re going and what we might see.
Oh, sure, I know what you’re thinking, he’s not the first guy to show up in Mount Shasta claiming to be able to see the future. That might be true, but I’d be willing to wager the other guys were never any funnier. OK, they might have been pretty funny too, but did they have self-inflating Bozo shoes? Uh, all right, maybe some of them did. Still, Bergman has that rare ability to make you laugh while helping change your perspective. Don’t believe me? There are a few hundred kids in L.A. you might want to ask.
Phil “Philbert” Fountain is a News Cafe’s resident buffoon and correspondent for anything with the word “Bozo” in it. For more information on Peter Bergman’s Radio Club, click this link: http://radio-club.org/home.htm For ticket information contact Shasta Rhythms in Mount Shasta at 530-926-6417.