Firesign Theatre member Philip Austin pays tribute to the late Peter Bergman in this 2012 photograph. The tribute performance by the surviving members of the troupe was called the "Big Brouhaha" and took place April 21, 2012 at the Kirkland Performance Center in Kirkland, Washington. Credit: Joe Mabel

Phil Austin, who attended Bowdoin College in Brunswick and went on to play detective Nick Danger in popular radio skits, died this month at the age of 74, according to the New York Times.

Austin died of an aneurysm on June 18 after battling cancer for several months, the Times reported. He died at his home on Fox Island, Washington.

Austin was a founding member of the satirical radio group Firesign Theatre, which gained a cult following in the 1960s and 70s with albums like “I Think We’re All Bozos on This Bus” and “Everything You Know Is Wrong.”

The troupe was nominated for Grammy Awards three times, and ultimately saw one of its albums — “Don’t Crush That Dwarf, Hand Me the Pliers” — immortalized in the Library of Congress’ National Recording Registry.

Austin — an actor, writer, producer and guitar player for the group — played perhaps the Firesign Theatre’s most iconic character, a private investigator named Nick Danger in a series of film noir spoofs.

“He was a great comic writer, a great voice talent, a dear friend and colleague,” fellow Firesign founder David Ossman told the Los Angeles Times. “That’s how I think of Phil and how our fans will think of Phil — in the role of Nick Danger, who solved the crime by using his third eye, which of course he kept hidden under his hat.”

Austin reportedly decided to attend Bowdoin College because it was as far as he could get from Fresno, California, where he grew up. But after two years at the school, he returned to southern California to continue his education there, the Times reported. However, he would never graduate from any of the post-secondary schools he attended.

“Wisdom is not my strong point,” Austin once said, according to the New York Times. “I have been known to have a couple of good ideas and get a couple of laughs here and there. I think that’s more than enough.”

Austin is survived by his wife, Oona, and a sister, Cathy Andreasen, the Los Angeles Times reported.


Seth Koenig

Seth has nearly a decade of professional journalism experience and writes about the greater Portland region.