In case you haven’t noticed, we try to keep it light here at The Frog.  The world is full of a lot of dark things and terrible deeds, so we try very hard to keep it balanced in the other direction.  We’ve even chosen not to promote the episode of The Bulbar Method where Billy kills and eats one of his students.  We’re sure his students learned a lot, but it was the one episode that was a little grim for us.

So, when faced with the recent passing of a legend, we decided to celebrate his life and all the things we can thank him for instead of mourning his passing.

That legend is a man named Stan Freberg.  If you’ve never dialed a rotary phone, you might not immediately recognize his name but we guarantee that you’ve felt his influence.  There really wouldn’t BE a Weird Al, a Tenacious D, or even a Bart Baker today if it wasn’t for Stan (as Weird Al himself acknowledges here.)  Stan was really the father of modern parodies.  When they were on the top of the charts, Stan was taking Elvis and Harry Belafonte down a peg with incredibly popular parodies of their hits.

In the spirit of looking for the overlooked, we’re not going to give you a eulogy or a bio of Stan, of which there have been many moving ones in the last few days. We’re going to show you some commercials instead.

Wait…what?

While many who know of Stan know of his parody work, not many folks know that he devoted much of his time towards revolutionizing the advertising industry.  Stan saw the overlooked potential for comedy that wasn’t being exploited in the advertising world of the time.  In a New York Magazine article from 1968, Stan described his view of the world of advertising thus:

Way back in 1956, I was a reasonably successful satirist making a decent living. My only connection with television advertising was the same as that of the average American; I sat stunned and maddened at the ineptness of advertisers, in their attempts to communicate with me. I wondered, “if we have to live with advertising, why doesn’t someone try and make at least a portion of it bearable?” Advertising in that era was deadly serious stuff. There were no Volkswagen ads, no funny Alka Seltzer spots, no Sunsweet Prune lampoons.

As early as 1955, in Hollywood, I had proposed the Freberg Approach to advertising, and my scripts had been treated as though they had leprosy. Evidently, these vice-presidents had heard the expression, “laughter is contagious,” and misconstrued it. I, however, bravely continued to work among my contaminated scripts. It was thus in those days that I earned the title “The Albert Schweitzer of advertising.”

When he finally got these same vice-presidents to let him play in the space, he made some of the funniest and most subversive commercials ever created.  Check out a few of our favorites below.  We’re particularly fond of the Zagnut commercial where he points out exactly how horrible a name Zagnut is for a candy bar.

So in addition to helping bring us names like Weird Al Yankovic and Bart Baker, you can thank Mr. Stan Freberg for classics like this:

And more recent examples, like this:


Also, if you want a piece of trivia that will astound your geeky friends, Stan Freberg was actually offered the role of C-3PO in the first Star Wars (the voice at least) and turned it down, telling George Lucas that he thought Anthony Daniels (who was known only for his mime work at the time) deserved the part.  His mime work. He just felt Anthony deserved it more and that he would know the character a lot better than Stan would.  A great piece of trivia and a sign of what a great guy Stan Freberg must have been.

Enjoy impressing your friends with that little tidbit and join us all in the celebration of an amazing life and a huge piece of talent.  Thanks, Stan.  We hope we’re carrying on your work in a way you would be proud of as we try to find joy in unexpected places.

Enjoy, froggies!

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