Stan the Man

Stan Freberg's lasting impact

We all have to die sometime; I just wish Stan Freberg had been the exception to prove the rule.

He seemed as ageless as he was extraordinary. Knowing he was still out there somewhere, thinking gently and humorously subversive thoughts, has always been a comfort, even if he may not be prominently deflating the pompous as in days of my yore.

Young people today (you whippersnappers!) take for granted the edgy TV ads for deodorants or satellite TV or, well, just about everything, that push boundaries or market absurdity, or mock themselves and everyone around them, or just generally strain the form.

But when Freberg was doing it, starting back in the 1950s—when he was among the first and arguably the best—it was tantamount to heresy.

Shows were brought to you by "sponsors"—serious people in dark suits whose products should be on a pedestal, and sometimes were, literally. Into that world broke the madcap man of the ‘Mad Men’ era, Stan Freberg, like a Tasmanian Devil in a china shop. The former voice artist (Warner Bros., who else?) and song parodist became a multiple-Clio-winning adman. Prunes would never be the same after Freberg loosened up Sunsweet.

Oh, and before there was a Weird Al, there was a weird Stan, sending up popular music with wicked parodies that brought him legions of fans and put him on the charts.

Yankovic tweeted following news of Freberg's death: "Very sad to say that one of my absolute all-time heroes has just passed away. RIP Stan Freberg. A legend, an inspiration, and a friend."

In past blogs I have pointed out that my humor was a combination of many influences—Monty Python, Mad magazine, National Lampoon, Allan Sherman and Tom Lehrer. But I have left out Freberg, and that was a big omission.

From his American History revisited (the commercial for America, which included a pitch for its purple mountain's majesty, "fruited or plain" is still a favorite) to his send-ups of Christmas commercialism, soaps and Dragnet, Stan was a huge influence on my penchant for parody and my love of TV ads that don't take themselves seriously.

It is still a round, round world, but it is a little less buoyant and bubbly and "wunnerful" now that Stan is no longer around.