Friday, August 10, 2007

The Feast of Saint Stan

Brothers, Sisters, and Transgendered Comedists Everywhere,

This week saw the 82nd birthday of one of my favorite funny men of all time, Stan Freberg. The man is a true Comedist Saint, extremely funny and extremely insightful, and a truly fine human being. Beginning his career as cartoon voiceman for Warner Brothers, he learned the subtlety of delivery and what could be done when two voices really had chemistry, something he learned from the master of comedic cartoon voice-overs, Mel Blanc (hallowed be thy name). His most famous characters were the mouse Hubie which he played opposite Blanc's Bertie and the terrier Chester which he played opposite Blanc's bulldog Spike.

He moved into radio where he was chosen by CBS to fill the biggest Comedic shoes there were, he was put in Jack Benny's slot. Unfortunately, the gig didn't last because he demanded that his sponsor not be a tobacco or alcohol company.

He made a series of fine comedy albums and ultimately ended up on television, making appearances on the Ed Sullivan show as a puppeteer. But his biggest influence on the medium came in advertising which he revolutionized by creating the first ads designed to capture the audience with their humor. Those who are reading and think they've never heard Stan Freberg, one word and you'll realize how many times you've heard him in ads.

But perhaps his greatest work was his 1961 album, Stan Freberg Presents The History of the United States of America, Part I. I've been fortunate in this life to have many delightfully enjoyable moments, but among the happiest were the many hours LilBro and I spent playing and replaying and replaying that album. I don't know the last time I heard it, but I have no doubt that the two of us could perform the whole thing straight through from "It's a round, round world" to the battle of Yorktowne without missing a beat. It is clever, sharp, and roll on the floor funny. Freberg is the absolute master of the sideways comment. His main scriptline is tight and beautifully crafted, something that would be masterful comedy by itself; but then his work is littered with pun-filled repartee that is nothing short of genius. If you've never heard History of the United States, please find a copy. It is a real treat.

The real story behind Thanksgiving:

"What do you mean you cooked the turkey?"
"I cooked the turkey."
"O.k., let me get this straight, you took our national bird and stuck it in the oven."
"Well, yeah."
"Charlie, the turkey was for the centerpiece."
"Well, I, uh,..."
"And just as everyone had their mouths set for roast eagle with all the trimmings."
"I'm sorry...well, what do we do now?"
"Well, I guess we'll have to serve it. Kind of scrawny, though, don't you think?"
"Yeah, I had an idea. I figured we could stuff it with old bread, make it look bigger."
"It might work."

"We going out on that joke?"
"No, we do reprise of song...that help."
"But, not much...."

Happy birthday Stan Freberg and many funny returns!

Live, love, and laugh,

Irreverend Steve