I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus
|I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus|
|Studio album by|
|Recorded||April–June 1971 |
|Producer||The Firesign Theatre|
|The Firesign Theatre chronology|
|The New Rolling Stone Record Guide|
|The Village Voice||B–|
I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus is the fourth comedy recording made by the Firesign Theatre for Columbia Records.  It was released in August 1971 and is the last of a tetralogy, comprising their first four albums. In addition to standard stereo formats, the album was released as a Quadraphonic LP and Quadraphonic 8-Track. It was nominated for a Hugo Award for Best Dramatic Presentation in 1972 by the World Science Fiction Society.
- "Side .001" – 20:51
- "Side .002" – 18:07
Side One starts with an audio segue from Don't Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers — the sound of an ice cream truck moving off down the street and out of earshot.
The piece opens as a bus appears on a typical suburban road identified as "Dutch Elm Street" in "Beautiful 'This Area' ". When it stops, vegetable-shaped holograms pop out of thin air and sing a song inviting people to board the bus and visit "The Future Fair" ("A fair for all and no fare to anybody!"). The main character, a young man named Clem (Philip Proctor), boards and takes a seat next to his soon-to-be companion, Barney, a self-identified bozo (person with a large nose which honks when squeezed) who is responsible for the title line, "I think we're all bozos on this bus." They are taken to the Future Fair, where they hear an announcement that they are "about to experience a period of simulated exhilaration" presented using a technique called "technical stimulation", and encounter several virtual-reality-like, quasi-educational rides and exhibits similar to those at Disneyland and the 1964 World's Fair.
They exit the bus and Clem enters "The Wall of Science", an exhibit featuring recreations of historical events. The presentation includes two men, "The Honorable Chester Cadaver" and "Senator Clive Brown", demonstrating a "model government" (which runs on electricity). When one of them asks Clem his name, he responds "Uh, Clem", and the central computer records this and subsequently addresses him as "Ah clem". Barney honks his nose after stating his name, which is recorded as "Barney (honk sound)". Thus the album satirizes early, inaccurate speech recognition technology.
Clem and Barney join other tourists in various exhibits and rides, and eventually encounter a simulation of then-President Richard Nixon similar to the "audioanimatronic" President Lincoln at Disneyland. But instead of merely making a speech, it answers visitors' questions with vague, positive-sounding replies only remotely related to the questions and completely unrelated to the citizens' concerns. When Clem reaches the front of the line, he puts the President simulator into maintenance mode by saying, "This is worker speaking. Hello." The computer responds with "Systat: uptime" and the length of time that it has been running. Clem then attempts to crash the system by confusing it with questions it can't understand, or sometimes, even parse. For example, "Why does the Porridge Bird lay his egg in the air?" is interpreted in several ways, such as "Why does the poor rich Barney (honk) delay laser's edge in the fair?", but the computer's speech-recognition software rejects them all as probably erroneous. This finally causes the "President" to put itself out of service and shut down, but the attack fails to bring down the Fair's entire network.
As Clem meets up with Barney on the Funway (a collection of carnival style attractions and games of skill), he discovers that the Fair's security is looking for him. The loudspeakers repeatedly page for a "Mr. Ahclem" and the hologram of "Artie Choke" informs him that "Deputy Dan" will come for him. Clem then uses the hologram of Artie Choke to create a holographic image of himself and sends it into the system a-la Tron, to confront the central computer, "Dr. Memory". His confusing questions cause this computer to crash, bringing the fair to a halt.
The entire experience is revealed to be a vision of the future as seen in the crystal ball of a Gypsy telling the fortune of someone with the same voice and name as Barney, who is apparently not the main character in his own fortune.
Clem is one of the first "computer hackers" mentioned in pop culture, and his dialogue with the fair's computer includes messages found in the DEC PDP-10, a popular minicomputer at the time. (Some of the lines are error messages from MACLISP.) An identification followed by the word "hello" initiated an interactive session on contemporary Univac, General Electric, and university timesharing systems. Many of the things the computer said were based on ELIZA, a computer program which simulated a Rogerian psychotherapist. For example, the phrase Clem used to put The President into maintenance mode, "this is Worker speaking," is based on the fact that the user could type "worker" at Eliza's command prompt, and Eliza would then display the command prompt for the Lisp software environment in which Eliza ran. And if the user neglected to end a statement or question to Eliza with a punctuation mark, Eliza's parser would fail, displaying the message "Unhappy: MkNam" to indicate that a function called "MkNam" was failing. The President said the same thing, pronouncing it "unhappy macnam."
Issues and reissues
This album was originally released simultaneously on LP, Cassette, SQ Quad LP, and Quad 8-Track.
- LP - Columbia C-30737
- Cassette - Columbia CA-30737
- Quad LP - Columbia CQ-30737
- Quad 8 Track - Columbia CAQ - 30737
It has been re-released on CD at least three times:
- 1989 - Mobile Fidelity MFCD-785
- 2001 - CBS/Epic
- 2001 - Laugh.com LGH1073
- The liner notes say "This album will take exactly 38:49 out of your future. Thank you."
- Christgau, Robert (December 12, 1971). "Consumer Guide (21)". The Village Voice. Retrieved December 14, 2018.
- Internet Archive
- "With One Of Its Easter Eggs, SIRI Evokes The Firesign Theatre, Hacker Culture, a 1960s Chatbot and Steve Jobs".
- according to the film's end credits, which direct viewers desiring more information to purchase a copy of this album
- Firesign Theatre. I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus. Columbia Records, 1971.
- Firesign Theatre. I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus. Mobile Fideilty, 1989.
- Firesign Media: I Think We're All Bozos On This Bus.
- "FIREZINE: Linques!." Firesign Theatre FAQ. 20 Jan. 2006 <>.
- Marsh, Dave, and Greil Marcus. "The Firesign Theatre." The New Rolling Stone Record Guide. Ed. Dave Marsh and John Swenson. New York: Random House, 1983. 175-176.
- Smith, Ronald L. The Goldmine Comedy Record Price Guide. Iola: Krause, 1996.
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