"Man, woman, child—all are up against the Wall of Science!"I Think We're All Bozos on This Bus
is a science-fictional comedy album by The Firesign Theatre
. The entire 40-minute story took up the entire album, with one track on each side. Originally released in 1971, it was one of the earliest works to feature a computer hacker as a main character.
The hacker, called Clem, gets on a bus headed to The Future Fair, where he meets a Bozo (apparently a sort of clown) named Barney. When the two arrive, they are greeted by cowboy-themed vegetable holograms. (Did we mention this piece is rather surreal?) Barney and Clem split up, and Clem goes to ride the "Wall of Science", where he is treated to a lengthy and very silly recap of the birth of the universe, the rise of man, and the development of science. When this is done, he decides to go see the President, an animatronic device (with a voice like Richard Nixon) that you can ask questions and get platitudes in response. Here, he begins his first hacking attempt, which only crashes the President and gets him ejected from the ride.
Outside the President ride, Clem encounters Barney once more. With security holograms chasing him, Clem again shows his hacking skills by taking over one of the holograms. He uses that to create a hologram-clone of himself (the term "Digital Avatar
" had not yet been invented), which he sends back to "the Shadows" (the word Cyberspace
had not yet been invented) to try to take over Dr. Memory, the fair's controlling central computer.
But the plot is mostly an excuse for a non-stop series of humorous vignettes parodying culture, science, politics, and mankind in general.
The album was nominated for a Hugo Award
for Best Dramatic Presentation (a category usually reserved for movies).
Tropes in this work:
- Amusement Park: Most of the piece takes place in a Disneyland-style amusement park called The Future Fair, with rides like "The Wall of Science" and "A Visit to the President" (the latter being a reference to Disneyland's own Abraham Lincoln animatronic puppet show). Curiously, the clown-like Bozos mentioned in the title are all visitors, rather than participants.
- Canis Latinicus: On the Wall of Science ride, when Sir Sidney Fudd is describing the accident that lead to his "particularly momentous discovery", he says, "but then, quid malborg in plano, consternation turned to lucidation." This is basically pure gibberish.
- The Computer Is Your Friend: Played with. At the Future Fair, the central computer, Dr. Memory, rules everything, until Clem manages to inject a virtual Clem-clone which defuses the doctor with a Logic Bomb.
- Cyberspace: Although the term hadn't yet been invented, it's basically where the holograms come from, and where the Clem-clone goes to find Dr. Memory. The holograms refer to it as "The Shadows".
- Digitized Hacker: Clem lacks direct access to the central computer, so he creates a virtual avatar, the "Clem-clone", to invade Dr. Memory's domain.
- Fortune Teller: At the end, the whole thing turns out to have been just a vision seen by Barney in a Gypsy Fortune Teller's Crystal Ball. (Or was it?)
- Gag Nose: The Bozos all have fake noses that make a squeaky sound when squeezed, which they do regularly. It's never actually stated that Bozos are clownsóin fact, it's suggested that they're more like a race or classóbut you're clearly supposed to get that idea.
Barney: C'mon, squeeze the wheeze! Many people like to.
- Hello, Insert Name Here: Clem is taken by surprise when a recorded greeting asks him his name, and he stutters, "uh, Clem". For the rest of the trip, he keeps running into park animatrons who say things like, "I sure am happy to see you, [uh Clem], please walk this way." To make the cut-and-paste even more obvious, the bulk of the sentence is delivered in a "professional actor" voice, while the "[uh Clem]" part is a tinny low-fidelity soundclip of Clem's original response, playing at lower volume than the canned line.
- Logic Bomb: Parodied when the Clem-clone gives Dr. Memory logic indigestion by asking "why does the porridge bird lay her eggs in the air?"
- Mathematician's Answer: When the Clem-clone asks "How are you, Doctor?" Dr. Memory replies in a flat monotone: "The Doctor is on."
- Master Computer: The entire Future Fair is run by a (possibly malevolent?) central computer called Dr. Memory, which Clem is trying to find a way to hack.
- Nested Story Reveal: At the end, it's revealed that all the events of the story were just a vision seen in the Crystal Ball of a Gypsy Fortune Teller.
- Non-Answer: The animatronic President gives one of these after a person named Jim talks about his horrible life in the ghetto:
Jim: Mr. President, where can I get a job?
President: Many busy executives ask me: what about the job displacement market program in the city of the future? Well, count on us to be there Jim, because, if we're lucky, tomorrow, we won't have to deal with questions like yours ever again.
- Playful Hacker: When Clem gets access to "worker mode" for the Fair's central computer, the first thing he does is make the pants disappear from one of the holograms.
- Techno Babble: The "Wall of Science" ride is full of very silly technobabble, parodying science documentaries. For example, we learn about "Fudd's First Law of Opposition: If you push something hard enough, it will fall over", which is then used for a babblicious explanation of how a power plant works.