Getting his start
Later on, Proctor earned accolades for his onstage work, including a Theatre World Award for his efforts in “The Amorous Flea.” Figuratively speaking, another of his career stepping stones was made of soap.
“I had a pretty good run,” he said of his role as a juvenile delinquent on the soap opera “The Edge of Night.” “I was on for six months or something like that.”
Proctor recalled the show’s producers excitedly telling him they’d developed a storyline for his character.
“I said, ‘Oh, great! That’s great,’” he noted. “They said, ‘You’re going to be murdered.’”
They also assured Proctor his character would “come back” in the trial scenes. Looking back, Proctor describes his “Edge of Night” period as a kick-start to his career.
Proctor’s professional life reached another plateau as a result of a westward trek that found him hanging out with Peter Fonda.
Fonda was doing research on the revolutionary youth movement for a film that turned out to be “Easy Rider,” Proctor said, and one day they joined a protest on the Los Angeles Sunset Strip. There, Proctor spotted a newspaper that included a picture of his East Coast acquaintance Peter Bergman, who was working in radio.
The two reconnected, ultimately becoming half of the four-person Firesign Theatre.
Firesign Theatre was a topical-surreal comedy cocktail. The group’s name was a nod toward the members’ astrological “fire” signs. It’s also a riff on FDR’s “Fireside Chats,” as well as the “Age of Aquarius” when the Theatre gained notice for its radio and album projects.
“We discovered that we had an affinity to improvise comedy together, very easily, like playing jazz,” Proctor said of the Firesigners, who garnered three Grammy nominations. He also said the Firesign members could do everything themselves — the voices, the music, producing the records.
“We had the opportunity to go into the studio and play, experiment, until we found the right tone, the right thing we wanted,” he said.
Through Firesign, Proctor learned he could create different characters. And when he “went commercial” and began auditioning for cartoon characters, radio ads, voice-overs, etc., he could draw on that creative experience.