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Nick Danger is a fictional character created by the comedy group The Firesign Theatre, portrayed by Phil Austin. Danger is a parody of the hard-boiled detective genre, and is often announced as "Nick Danger, Third Eye", a parody of the term private eye. Danger stories involve stereotypical film noir situations, including mistaken identity, betrayal, and femme fatales. Danger originally appears on the 1969 album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All, and is reprised in the 1979 Nick Danger: The Case of the Missing Shoe, 1984 The Three Faces of Al, and 2001 The Bride of Firesign.
A constant thorn in Danger's side is police Lieutenant Alvin Bradshaw, portrayed by Peter Bergman. Bradshaw is resentful of Danger's "intrusion" into police business, jealous of his appeal to women, and suspicious of his honesty, constantly looking for a chance to catch him in a felony. Bradshaw's dream is to become district attorney and prosecute Danger for a capital crime.
One of Danger's criminal nemeses is Rocky Rococo (Philip Proctor), described as a "little man" and a "slimy weasel", based on Dashiell Hammett's Joel Cairo as portrayed by Peter Lorre in the 1941 film The Maltese Falcon. In the role, Proctor imitates Lorre's distinctive voice. In pictures supplied with the How Can You Be in Two Places... album, Bergman portrays Rococo, creating the image of a bald man wearing a fez.
Danger's old college flame, Betty Jo Bialosky (Proctor), uses several aliases: Melanie Haber, Audrey Farber, and Susan Underhill, but "everyone knew her as Nancy." Rococo's and Nancy's names are a gag based on the Beatles song The Ballad of Rocky Raccoon. In the original Danger episode, Bergman voices Nancy in one scene where she appears with Rococo.
Nancy's butler Dan Catherwood (David Ossman) is secretly Nancy's husband. He has Ossman's distinctive old man voice, and is found to be 1000 years old, as a result of having invented a time machine and making a round trip to ancient Greece.
Origin as a private detective
Near the end of the title track of How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All (which comes before the second track The Further Adventures of Nick Danger), a brief snippet of a TV show or movie depicts three deranged hoodlums discussing how much they "hate cops". Their leader, Nick, vows to "get even with every rotten cop in this city" by turning in his badge and burning his uniform.
The Further Adventures of Nick Danger
Danger debuts in a 28:11 track on side 2 of the 1969 album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once When You're Not Anywhere at All. This is an episode titled "Cut 'Em Off at the Past", of a mock radio program purportedly aired on December 6, 1941. Rocky Rococo comes to Danger's office and attempts to sell him the ring Danger gave Nancy back in college. Danger goes to the mansion where Nancy lives and meets her butler Catherwood. After knocking Danger unconscious, Catherwood and Nancy murder Rococo, who is blackmailing them. They attempt to frame Danger for their crime, but Danger forces Catherwood to reveal the truth, and solves his problem by some means we will never know; the show is interrupted by the news bulletin of President Franklin Delano Roosevelt (Bergman) announcing the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor.
On the 1972 live album Not Insane or Anything You Want To, the group presented a skit parodying Nick Danger, titled Yungai, Motor Detective. This has Austin playing the title role as a Japanese detective, Proctor as his Japanese girlfriend Miki, Ossman as the detective's robotic Japanese butler Rotonoto, and Bergman as American Lieutenant Brad Shaw.
The Case of the Missing Shoe
In 1979, the Firesign Theatre produced five short (2:24) episodes of a prospective comic radio serial (similar to the 1960s syndicated Chickenman). These were released by Rhino Records on a 12:00 EP record.
The Three Faces of Al
This 1984 album was produced without David Ossman, who had temporarily left to produce shows for National Public Radio. This story is inspired by a line in the original "Cut 'Em Off at the Past" where Bradshwaw tells Danger, "You're lucky we didn't burn ya on the Anselmo pederasty case." Bradshaw has realized his dream to become District Attorney, and gets his chance to prosecute Danger, who is the apparent suspect in the murder of mob boss Anselmo Von Pederazzi. Nancy and Rocky Rococo also appear.
The Bride of Firesign
This album was produced in 2001, after the Firesign Theatre staged a comeback with Ossman returned to the group. It is the third album in a "millennial trilogy" titled We're Doomed.
A stage production of "Nick Danger, Third Eye" premiered February 8, 2012 at the Powell Crosley Mansion in Sarasota, Florida. This was the first professional theatrical performance of "Nick Danger" and starred Keith Chrismon as Nick Danger, Joelle Davis as Nancy, and John Forsyth, Marty Fugate and Karle Murdock as multiple characters. Larry Barrett produced and directed the production; Steve Patmagrian was its associate producer. A student production of "Nick Danger, Third Eye" was staged in the Fisher Theater Workshop At Phillips Exeter Academy in 1978.
- The liner notes actually say the program aired on December 6, 1941, even though the Pearl Harbor attack occurred on December 7.
- "Nick Danger: The Case of the Missing Shoe: Track listing". Firesign Media. Retrieved November 2, 2017.
- cinefan (30 June 1983). "Nick Danger in The Case of the Missing Yolk (Video 1983)". IMDb.
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