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Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Stan Freberg ► Nostalgia Ain't What It Used To Be

Dateline August 7, 1926 - Born Stanley Victor Freberg in a manger in a hospital in Pasadena, California, the newborn "Stan" (as his Baptist minister father improbably nicknamed him) waited a few years as he planned and schemed and schemed and planned. Once he was ready to unleash himself on the world, nothing could hold him back from parodying everything under the sun to become of of 'Merka's favourite (unknown) humourists. 



While I was growing up Stan Freberg was one of my favourite comedians, although I knew nothing about him and had never seen him on tee vee. Yet, I could quote entire passages from his recordings and I knew how to quote "Turn off the bubble machine" from his hilarious "Wun'erful, Wun'erful" long before I even knew who Lawrence Welk was. Once I learned of Welk, the parody was even funnier. In fact, there are many songs for which I knew Freberg's parodies LONG before I knew the original.

While Freberg's humour was gentle parody, there was still a bite to it. Back in the day I actually had a Civics teacher who played us "Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Volume One: The Early Years" once every year. No doubt it was just an excuse to not have to present a lesson, but looking back on it now it seems like an example of extreme anarchy. Until the release of his "United States" he was better known for his song parodies, making him the Weird Al of his time. However, Freberg didn't change the lyrics in his parodies. Instead he lampooned entire genres of music -- most notably early Rock and Roll -- by using the absurdities of the music, or artist, against them.

One of better-known songs was a send-up of the Calypso craze that had been sweeping the nation. Harry Belafonte never saw it coming.


From song parodies to commercials, Freberg went on to change the face of television advertising by adding humour and over-the-top production values. Ann Miller was willing to parody herself in a Campbell's Soup commercial.


The Lone Ranger and Tonto were willing to parody themselves in this commercial that also poked fun at the Lark Cigarette campaign -- when tobacco companies were still allowed to advertise on tee vee -- that demanded "Show us your Lark pack!"


Ray Bradbury was a even up to making fun of himself.


However, it's the song parodies that I love the most. To celebrate Stan Freberg's 86th Birthday, here's a Stan Freberg Jukebox:


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