THE INFLUENCE Of Stan Freberg
I remember Stan Freberg's
singles as constant companions during my high school and college years: The
"Dragnet" parodies (which sounded almost exactly like the radio and TV shows in
part because Stan hired the same music and musicians the real show used); his masterful
send-up of Harry Belafonte's "Day-O" (which contains a line everybody still
repeats - "Too piercing, man!" - and the brilliant device of Stan repeatedly
walking out of the studio); "John and Marsha" (what kid could resist imitating
that?) and glorious take-offs of the awful Johnny Ray song, "Cry" and the even
more revolting "Yellow Rose of Texas."
Stan, like other show-business heroes of mine (Noel Coward, Jean Cocteau, Orson Welles) could do it all - he wrote the scripts, sang (in fluent imitations of Eartha Kitt, Lawrence Welk and Elvis), and performed dialogue as well as any comic actor of the day. His classic "Green Chri$tmas" (1958) skewered the 50s consumer culture, using the disappearing devices of Golden Age radio. It lasted nearly seven minutes and got to Number 44 on the charts. It was the triumph of the comedy single.
Little did Stan imagine that only ten years after "Green Chri$tmas," (and barely seven years after his early LP "The United States of America") The Firesign Theatre would create a brand new album which took audio comedy to an entirely new dimension. I've said in print before that "Temporarily Humboldt County" seems to segue from "Take An Indian To Lunch," and I was careful to say to Stan, when I interviewed him a few years ago, that "we owe it all to you," but, of course, we've never been parodists.
Maybe what we really owe you, Stan, is a bucket of thanks for giving us lots of laughs in an all-too-Noir decade when we really needed them, for preserving the art of radio beyond its reported demise (so we could use it too), and taking commercials out beyond the Edge. You're brave and funny and suffer no fools.
If I am Corwin's grandchild and Bradbury's son, than I'm certainly Freberg's youngest brother, and I can think of no media family I'd rather be a part of.