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What This Country Needs Proctor and Bergman


1975 - What this Country Needs, Columbia PC-33687

"What This Country Needs" is the second solo release from Peter Bergman & Philip Proctor. It is, in essence, "T. V. Or Not T. V." live, with a few new pieces thrown in. As always, it's great fun to hear the Firesign boys in front of an audience, where even the worst of puns elicit groans which invariably turn to laughter. Indeed, there is a feeling on this album that Proctor & Bergman are trying to see how far they can push the audience's tolerance for wheezy puns and silly jokes (pretty far, it turns out). The involved structure of the "T. V. Or Not T. V." album is abandoned for purposes of performing live, so what remains are several self-contained outtakes from that album, which stand well on their own.

"The Roaming Umpire" piece is probably one of the finest sketches Proctor & Bergman released as a team, and it plays wonderfully live. "The Pills Bros." have shrunk from two to one by this album (Proctor letting Bergman play the bit). And the hilarious "Give Up This Day" returns, as does Bergman's Bosco Hern monologue. The new sketches include "Fred and Ford," in which Proctor's Fred Flamm interviews Bergman's Gerald Ford during the "Walking & Chewing Gum At the Same Time" marathon, and "The Man Who Eats Watches," easily the strangest piece on the album (Frenchman Pete attempting to consume harried waiter Phil's timepiece while visiitng a restaurant).

As evidenced by the Proctor & Bergman solo efforts, Pete & Phil were more concerned with earning belly laughs first, and constructing involved or surreal plotlines second. "T. V." is by far their most cohesive release; "What This Country Needs" and the subsequent "Give Us A Break" are collections of two-man comedy bits. Most of the material presented here and on "Give Us..." is more silly than pointed. The sketches are of a generally high quality, though some are so slight, they all but evaporate from memory as soon as they're over. As always, P & B's humor is very clean and not particularly mean-spirited, which guarantees the jokes at least play "cute" if not "hilarious." So, while entertaining, this album pales in comparison the monumental "T. V." or Phil Austin's "Roller Maidens From Outer Space." However, it is certainly a funny record of a comedy team, Proctor & Bergman, who deserved to have more success than they did apart from the Firesign Theatre.

Phil Buchbinder