Audio Play: The Further Adventures of Nick Danger
The makers of Fantastic Cigarettes, long in the leaf and short in the can, bring you another true story from the tattered casebook of Nick Danger, Third Eye. Let's join him now in the adventure we call...Cut ‘em Off at the Past!
"The Further Adventures of Nick Danger" is a long track from The Firesign Theatre
's album How Can You Be in Two Places at Once, When You're Not Anywhere at All?
, which took up the entire second side of the original vinyl release. A parody of the Hardboiled Detective
and Film Noir
, as well as old-timey Radio
shows, it remains one of their most popular works.
Compared to other Firesign Theatre pieces, the story is relatively straightforward—but relatively
is the operative term here. Private Detective
Nick Danger, Third Eye (voiced by Phil Austin) is sitting in his office, listening to "the monotonous staccato of rain on my desktop", when he is approached by a suspicious little man, Rocky Roccoco (a Peter Lorre
expy, voiced by Phil Proctor), who wants to sell him what Nick describes as "a two-bit ring from a Cracker Back Jox
", and mentions a woman with many names, including Betty Jo Bialosky.
Nick recognizes that last name as an old college sweetheart (but "everyone knew her as Nancy
"), and, after time out for a brief flashback, decides to look her up. When he does, she asks for his help. ("You called just in the nick of time!" "You haven't lost your delicate sense of humor, have you, Nancy?" "What?"). Along the way, Nick's footsteps are dogged by the obstructive police detective, Sergeant ("Lieutenant!") Bradshaw (Peter Bergman). Eventually, a time machine gets involved, and things become even more complex and confusing than they already were.
Nick Danger would reappear on subsequent Firesign Theatre albums, including Nick Danger: The Case of the Missing Shoe
, and The Three Faces of Al
, as well as on one of their videos, Nick Danger: The Case of the Missing Yolk
Tropes in this work:
- Alternate History: The presidential interruption at the end of the piece makes it clear that the show itself is taking place in an alternate universe where the US surrendered to Japan after the attack on Pearl Harbor.
- Badass Longcoat: In video versions, Phil Austin would wear the classic trenchcoat and fedora typical of the Hardboiled Detective.
- Bland-Name Product: "Looseners" is probably a reference to "Lucerne", a major California dairy at the time.
- Since it's a castor-oil breakfast cereal designed to "clean out your whole system", Looseners is probably also a reference to "loose bowels".
- The Case Of: Used in various sequels, like Nick Danger: The Case of the Missing Shoe and Nick Danger: The Case of the Missing Yolk.
- Detective Patsy: "Nancy" asks for Nick's help, but really she just wants to frame him for the murder of Roccoco, who is blackmailing her.
- Emergency Presidential Address: The moment of climax is cut off by an announcement from the president, declaring that the US has been attacked by Japan at Pearl Harbor and unconditionally surrenders.
- Femme Fatale: Betty Jo Bialosky ("Nancy"); at one point she drugs Nick and frames him for the murder of Rocky Roccoco.
- Flashback... Back... Back...: "No, no, no, no, no, no! You don't understand how radio works. Now, this is my flashback—all I have to do to return us to the present is fade my voice out like this and cue the organist!"
- Gayngster: Rocky Roccoco (appropriately, as he's an expy of Peter Lorre's character Cairo from The Maltese Falcon)
Nick (over): My nostrils flared at the scent of perfume. Pyramid Patchouli. There was only one joker in L.A. sensitive enough to wear that scent, and I had to find out who he was.
Roccoco: Good afternoon, Mister...Danger. My name is Rocky Roccoco.
Nick (regular voice): Thanks, half-pint. You just saved me a lot of investigative work.
- Gender-Inverted Trope: A verbal example.
Catherwood: Now then, I suppose you're here to see my mistress, Mister Danger.
Nick: I don't care about your private life or what his name is.
- Gesundheit: At one point, the butler, Catherwood, blurts out "Goo goo ga joob" and Nick responds "Gesundheit."
- Hardboiled Detective: Nick Danger is a surrealist take on the classic version.
- Hostile Show Takeover: Sergeant ("Lieutenant!") Bradshaw attempts this when he thinks he's got the goods on Nick. He has grandiose plans of turning the show into a more action-oriented thriller. And no Jewish writers, either!
- Hurricane of Puns: Like most of the Firesign's works, the piece is full of puns.
Nick (voice over): There was something fishy about the butler. I think he was a Pisces, probably working for scale.
- I Have Many Names: When Roccoco is quizzing Nick about the woman, he has to go through several of her names ("Melanie Haber?" "Audrey Farber?" "Susan Underhill?"). It isn't until he says "Betty Jo Bialosky" that Nick remembers: "everyone knew her as Nancy." Then Nick goes through the same routine with Catherwood: "Oh, you mean Nancy!"
- Inspector Javert: Lt. Bradshaw is determined to get Nick, with an eye towards taking over the show. "You're lucky we didn't burn you on the Anselmo Pederasty case!"
Nick. You caught him, didn't you?
Bradshaw. Yeah, but the punk got away, no thanks to you.
- Larynx Dissonance: Since the Firesigns are all men, the voice of "Nancy" is a sort of half-falsetto.
- Medium Awareness: The work is full of this. Nick is aware of his own filtered narration, and asks "how do I make my voice do this?", and when the characters get stuck in a flashback, the butler explains that to escape, he just has to fade his voice out and cue the organist. There are also references to foley effects, like the cellophane used to create the sound of a crackling fire:
Catherwood: Let me introduce myself. I am Nick Danger.
Nick: No, let me introduce myself. I am Nick Danger.
Catherwood: If you're so smart, why don't you pick up your cues faster?
Nick: Are those my cues?
Catherwood: Yes, and they must be dry by now. Why don't you pull them up out of the cellophane before they scorch?
- Mundane Made Awesome: Rocky Roccoco's dramatically proffered...pickle.
- Not Big Enough for the Two of Us: When time travel leads to a Nancy's past and future selves fighting, they both exclaim, "There ain't room enough in this dress for both of us!"
- Old Flame: Betty Jo Bialosky ("Nancy") went to college with Nick, and they even dated, but when he proposed, she turned him down, and couldn't tell him why. He hadn't seen her since.
- Opening Narration: Parodying the standards of the genre:
Narrator: Los Angeles: He walks again by night! Relentlessly...Ruthlessly...
Narrator: Doggedly...(dog barks)...towards his weekly meeting with the unknown. At Fourth and Drucker he turns left. At Drucker and Fourth he turns right. He crosses MacArthur Park and walks into a great sandstone building.
Nick Danger: Ow, my nose!
Narrator: Groping for the door, he steps inside (phone starts ringing)...Climbs the thirteen steps to his office (ring)...He walks in (ring)...He's ready for mystery (ring)...He's ready for excitement (ring)...He's ready for anything (ring)...He's...
Nick Danger: (picking up phone) Nick Danger, Third Eye.
Caller: I want to order a pizza to go and no anchovies.
Nick Danger: No anchovies? You've got the wrong man. I spell my name...Danger! (hangs up phone)
- Also delivers a Brick Joke in that the "pizza from Nick's" routine started on Don't Crush That Dwarf..., with George LeRoy Tirebiter playing the role of "Caller".
- Painting the Medium: All throughout. Not only do the characters routinely make references to the fact that they're in a radio show (see Medium Awareness), but at the end, Nick also knows that they're on a record album, and has them listen to part of the other side. Backwards.
Nick: It's ok, they're speaking Chinese.
- Parody Commercial: Lieutenant Bradshaw gives a commercial for Loosener's Castor Oil Flakes "with real glycerin vibrafoam! It doesn't just wash your mouth out—it cleans the whole system, right on down the line."
- Police Are Useless: A standard trope of the genre; Sergeant ("Lieutenant!") Bradshaw is not at all interested in the disappearance of "Nancy's" husband, and just wants to get Nick.
- Private Eye Monologue: Nick does this throughout. Lampshaded when he comments, "how do I make my voice do this?" (Later, "Nancy" asks the same question.)
- Running Gag: Nick and others keep referring to police detective Bradshaw as "Sergeant Bradshaw", to which he angrily replies "Lieutenant!" This even happens when he attempts his Hostile Show Takeover, and begins imagining the new opening of his show.
- Sdrawkcab Alias: At one point Nick Danger reads the name on his office door as "Regnad Kcin"
- Serial Escalation: After several instances of Sgt. Bradshaw (LIEUTENANT!) asserting his rank, and in the middle of his Hostile Show Takeover, we get this gem:
Narrator: "The Adventures of Sgt. Bradshaw-"
Bradshaw: (angrily) "Lieutenant-"
Narrator: "DISTRICT ATTORNEY!"
- 666: "Here's the case I call number 666"
- Show Within a Show: The whole thing is implied to be one during a Parody Commercial, when Lt. Bradshaw (voiced by Peter Bergman) says "Now, here in the studio it's all knuckles and know how. But when that red light goes off, I'm just plain Harry Ames: citizen, weekend father."
- Tap on the Head: Nick gets hit on the head by Nancy/Betty Jo. As he slowly fades into unconsciousness, he begins to hear voices, one of which is the announcer saying, "we'll be back to Nick Danger after these commercial messages".
- Theme Tune Cameo: At one point, Nick begins whistling the theme tune as he "walks the streets by night".
- The Unreveal: Nick is about to announce his plan to solve the time-travel crisis, but he only gets as far as "All right, everyone, take off your—" before he's cut off by Franklin Roosevelt, announcing the attack on Pearl Harbor—and the United States' immediate and unconditional surrender to Japan.
- —Looks like I've solved another one for you, Bradshaw.
- Which Me?: During a flashback, Nick and his flashback self get confused about who's the current narrator.