Saturday, March 10, 2012

Peter Bergman, R.I.P.

One of my most precious inspirations, since my late teens, was/is the LA comedy quartet, the Firesign Theatre. Though their most significant work was done in the late 60s and early 70s, they remained a potent, if intermittent comedic force to the present day. They had no peers apart from Monty Python and probably had as much influence on me as an electronic artist as any composers. A week doesn't go by that I don't listen to them. Their best recordings are suffused with a kind of exuberant wordplay, whimsy and multi-layered complexity that was entirely new in comedy. Peter Bergman was the organizing force that brought them into being.

Without filling too much space, it's fair to say that Bergman had an eventfulness of life and career that exceeded that of almost anyone. He was present at or an instigator of many watershed moments of recent cultural history. He asked questions, connected dots, and celebrated life. His most recent activity was to revive his long-standing Radio Free Oz program as a daily podcast. In its current form it was a melange of political ad parodies, insightful commentary and effervescent humor. I subscribed, enthusiastically. Heading into his early seventies, the notion of slowing down seemed unknown to him. Aware of the past, he look forward. I thought he provided a good example for how to live out one's later years. The LA Times obit provides a good precis of his life and work. And this quote concluded his last podcast before he passed away:

“Take heart, dear friends. We are passing through the darkening of the light. We’re gonna make it and we’re going to make it together. Don’t get ground down by cynicism.

Don’t let depression darken the glass through which you look. This is a garden we live in. A garden seeded with unconditional love. And the tears of the oppressed, and the tears of the frustrated, and the tears of the good will spring those seeds. The flag has been waived. It says occupy. Occupy Wall Street. Occupy the banks. Occupy the nursing homes. Occupy Congress.

Occupy the big law offices. Occupy the lobbyists. Occupy…yourself. Because that’s where it all comes together. I pledge to you, from this moment on, whatever it means, I’m going to occupy myself. I love you. See ya tomorrow.”

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