made his living making others laugh, first through his success as one-fourth of the
. Fans of the group will recognize him as the voice of Mudhead and Dr. Math in
and Babe in How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All?
Born in 1939, in Shaker Heights, Ohio, a suburb of Cleveland, Bergman
found his first taste of radio (and scandal) when he became an early morning DJ for his junior high school's radio station. Bored with reading the same old news one day, he announced that Chinese Communists had taken over the high school and was quickly replaced in the job. In high school, he formed a comedy group with some friends and was able to get a novelty single that satirized the 1956 Democratic convention pressed and played on Cleveland's local radio stations.
In 1957 he left for Yale University and met future Firesign Theatre
member Phil Proctor
in the drama department. The two soon became close friends, and in the mid-'60s, both moved to the West Coast, sitting in on broadcasts at Los Angeles' KPFK radio station. Bergman
met Phil Austin
and David Ossman
at a station fundraiser, and the four began helping out with each other's work, particularly around a free-form, early morning show called Radio Free Oz
, which Bergman
co-hosted. Interested in astrology, Bergman
was the first to notice that Proctor
, and himself were all fire signs, and a group name was born.
After the initial success of the Firesign Theatre
radio shows and records, Bergman
split as a duo, recording the album TV or Not TV
and touring with it in 1973. Two other albums followed with Proctor
-- What This Country Needs
in 1975 and Give Us a Break in 1978 -- both of which failed to match the critical or popular success of the foursome's outings. The duo also scripted and starred in several films, including Americathon
, which still gave them credit after turning their script over to other writers. Bergman
continued to work with the Firesign Theatre
through the end of the century, while making his living writing and performing for television and radio. He died in 2012 after a bout with leukemia.