Wednesday, April 8, 2015

4.8.15 Hero of the Day: Stan Freberg

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Name: Stan Freberg
Age: was 88
Occupation: satirist
Last Seen: Santa Monica, CA
Awarded For: making us laugh for over 70 years
The world is laughing a little bit less today.

One of the funniest entertainers of all time has passed away. Stan Freberg had one of the most-impressive careers in show business, which started in the early 1940s and last until just recently. When it was announced yesterday that he had died of pneumonia at age 88, it left a void in the hearts of those who grew up listening to his weird and unusual satire.

His career started just as he got out of high school when he took a bus to a talent agency who directed him to Warner Bros., where he made his mark recording voices for their Looney Tunes and Merrie Melodies cartoons. At WB, he voiced one of the Goofy Gophers, "Tosh" while mainstay Mel Blanc lent his voice to "Mac". Stan also voiced Pete Puma in "Rabbit's Kin", a dumb dog that couldn't outsmart Bugs Bunny in "Foxy By Proxy" and scores of others. Sadly, because Mel Blanc had an exclusive contract at Warners that only allowed him to have screen credit, Freberg was not credited for most of his work at the studio.

However, the lack of screen credit didn't hurt his career. He recorded several hit records in the 1950s that were mostly parodies. His 1952 rendition of Johnny Ray's "Cry" called "Try", where he over-exaggerated Ray's vocal style was a huge hit, even though Ray himself was angry with Stan's version. Of course, that's until Ray's original version of the tune found its way up the charts again. Freberg's recordings were hits throughout the 50s, including "St. George and the Dragonet" which was a #1 hit with fellow voice actors June Foray and Daws Butler, plus parodies of "Day-O", "Heartbreak Hotel" and several others.

In the 1950s, he even gained a radio show on CBS. However, he refused to be sponsored by companies that manufactured cigarettes and tobacco, mainly because of his Christianity. Despite his faith, his parodies were often hilarious and groundbreaking. He was also one of the puppeteers of the legendary Time For Beany TV series, which was created by former Warner animator Bob Clampett.

In later years, Freberg also worked on commercials, such as Jeno's Pizza Rolls, Campbell's Soups and Encyclopaedia Britannica, which he co-starred with his son, Donavan. He worked well into his 80s, most-recently working on Cartoon Network's The Garfield Show.

With Freberg's passing, very few voice actors remain from the golden age of animation, notably June Foray (aka Rocky the Squirrel), still going strong at 97 (and also working on The Garfield Show). Stan was also an inspiration to folks like Weird Al Yankovic and Mad Magazine. It would only be interesting to know what this world would be like without him existing.

And who wants to know?


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