Me and Stan Freberg

“The story of Little Blue Riding Hood is true. Only the color has been changed to prevent an investigation.” -Stan Freberg (1953)

They say that you should never meet your heroes. That’s probably because they would never live up to your expectations. Thankfully, that doesn’t pertain to portraying your heroes…at least in my case.

I learned this when I was recently cast as pioneer of radio and television, Stan Freberg as part of PBS’s aptly-named Pioneers of Television series. This particular volume (Season 2) is due to be released in January of 2011.

First of all, it was PBS, so it paid for crap; a tote bag and an Antiques Roadshow coin purse, but I would’ve done it for free. Thankfully, they didn’t ask me to.

You may not have heard of Stan Freberg, but I guarantee you’ve heard him. If you’re a fan of Mad Men, you heard Peggy and Joey performing Freberg’s “John and Marsha” from 1951, a send-up of the acting style of the day’s soap operas.

If you’re a fan of Warner Bros. cartoons, he was the voices of Tosh the Gopher, Pete Puma and Beaky Buzzard.

On radio, The Stan Freberg Show replaced Jack Benny in 1957, which featured sketches such as Elderly Man River and Puffed Grass, the latter a satirical commercial that foreshadowed Stan Freberg’s impact in the world of television and advertising.

Stan Freberg, arguably (although I don’t know who you would find to argue it), is the father of the funny commercial. Before him, television commercials were very serious, informative, and focused solely on the product. Freberg posited that a funny commercial was the way to go, with the product as a character or a simple reference. Here’s one of Freberg’s commercials for Cheerios. And another for Sunsweet Pitted Prunes, also starring his friend Ray Bradbury.

Sure, if it wasn’t Stan Freberg, I’m sure somebody would have hit upon the idea of a funny commercial, but it just so happens that he did…to the tune of 21 Clio Awards (the award for advertising).

Anyway, it seems that Stan Freberg and I share a resemblance. Judge for yourself:

And while the producers could not have known it, the similarities didn’t stop there. I won’t bore you with my résumé, but with every category therein, I owe something to Stan Freberg; my writing, my radio work, my whole sense of humor was the result of listening to those old comedy albums featuring those old radio shows.

And in January, 2011, I’ll have Stan Freberg as an acting credit.


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