Monday, August 06, 2012

This Week in Television History: August 2012 PART I

Listen to me on TV CONFIDENTIAL:

As always, the further we go back in Hollywood history, the more that fact and legend become intertwined. It's hard to say where the truth really lies.

August 7, 1948

Stanley Victor Freberg author, recording artist, animation voice actor, comedian, radio personality, puppeteer, and advertising creative director was born. His first jobs (at age eighteen) involved supplying voices for Warner Brothers cartoons, usually in support of Mel Blanc and always without credit. Soon though, Freberg was being heard on radio shows and on early television. He and V.O. actor Daws Butler worked puppets and supplied the vocals on Bob Clampett's Time for Beany, the first kids' show to attract an adult audience.

In 1950, he launched a long association with Capitol Records, recording silly and satirical material. The sales and critical reaction stunned the Capitol execs so they let him keep on doing pretty much anything he wanted, even when it meant attacking their own industry. His recordings all had two outstanding qualities. One is that they were funny. The other is that they were produced with high production values, first-rate music (usually supplied by arranger-conductor Billy May) and a fine supporting cast that included Butler, June Foray and Peter Leeds, along with the hundreds of voices that came out of Freberg himself. Even if you didn't get the satire — and some folks didn't, especially when Freberg records were released overseas — the material was always fun to listen to.

Freberg starred in two network radio shows, both of which also featured his frequent partner, Butler. The 1954 That's Rich was a fairly standard situation comedy but the 1957 Stan Freberg Show was a glorious (if short-lived) festival of satire and comedy. It made him, by his definition, "the last network radio comedian in America." A nice way to end an era.

When The Stan Freberg Show ended after 15 weeks, Freberg found a new outlet for his humor in advertising, with award-winning campaigns for Sunsweet Prunes, Jeno's Pizza Rolls, Chun King Chow Mein, Pittsburgh Paints and many other clients. He didn't exactly invent the funny commercial but he quickly became its master, and rival ad agencies scrambled to emulate his lead.

And of course, he continued to release records, including the album many believe to be the greatest comedy record of all time. Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, The Early Years.

To quote the Bicentennial Minute, "And that's the way it was".

Stay Tuned

Tony Figueroa

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