Stan Freberg: Clever Comedy

Stan Freberg was many things. Dull wasn’t one of them. He was an advertising copywriter and creative director, voice actor, radio personality, singer and comedian starting in the late 1940s. He also was the father of the send-up single and sardonic TV advertisement. Freberg, who died in 2015, also loved jazz, as many fans know from Three Little Bops, the 1957 Looney Toons cartoon featuring Freberg’s voiceover and music by West Coast jazz musicians.

Now, many of his artifacts are going to online auction on Dec. 10 at 9 a.m. (PCT) at Heritage Auctions in Beverly Hills, Calif. (go here). Included among the items are the first-draft script for his acclaimed 1961 comedy album, Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America Volume One: The Early Years, sound-effects props and items from his memorable TV commercials. Yesterday, I received the following from Hunter, Freberg’s wife (above, with Stan Freberg):

“Hello Marc,

I just finished watching one of your YouTube videos and since it is 10:30 p.m. in Los Angeles (1:30 a.m. in N.Y.) I might be one of the first emails you read tomorrow morning. Your schedule might have changed recently since I am sure you are busy promoting your new book and enjoying the great review in the New York Times. Stan and I were big fans of your work and always read everything you wrote in the Wall Street Journal. We talked about contacting you since you had featured so many of our friends in your articles. I loved it when I recently read that you were a great Stan Freberg fan (how could you not be?).

“You might not know that ‘Freb’ loved jazz. He worked with Quincy Jones (above with Stan Freberg) through the years and did an award winning radio campaign for the Radio Advertising Bureau with Sarah Vaughn and Quincy. He also was the man who created the word “Grammy” at one of the first NARAS meetings at the Beverly Hills Hotel. He loved all of his careers and felt very fortunate that he attained the top honor in every one of them.”

Rather than use words to explain Freberg’s sense of humor, here are a bunch of clips on the music and advertising fronts:

Back in the early 1950s, way before “Weird Al” Yankovic poked video fun at hit songs, Freberg invented the jape single. Here’s Heartbreak Hotel (his “that’s close enough for jazz” line still kills me)..

Here’s Sh-Boom

Here’s Try, a twist on Johnnie Ray’s Cry

Here’s C’est Si Bon

Here’s I’ve Got You Under My Skin

Here’s Who Listens to Radio?, featuring Sarah Vaughan with an arrangement by Quincy Jones….

As for advertising, Freberg was way out front wry humor in TV ads. The result was always geared to generate pleasant awe, not shock, and dollars for clients. Most TV comedies in the 1960s and early ’70s, including Laugh In and The Carol Burnett Show, owe Freberg a debt of gratitude. Here’s one of his ads for Cheerios…

Here’s his Butternut Coffee ad…

And here are a bunch of Freberg-written ads…