A media pioneer and a founding member of the Television Academy, Stan Freberg channeled his boundless creativity into successful careers as an actor, writer, director, producer, composer, lyricist, humorist, author, advertising visionary and more.
The Los Angeles native got his start in show business as a teenager when he auditioned as a voice actor for the world-renowned Warner Bros. animation studios, and within two weeks was working alongside voice-over legends Mel Blanc and Daws Butler.
In 1949, he helped producer Bob Clampett create the groundbreaking puppet series Time for Beany, a precursor to the 1960s animated series Beany and Cecil, for fledgling TV station KTLA. The show, which was performed live and appealed to all ages, chronicled the escapades of a boy named Beany and his seasick sea serpent Cecil. Freberg was the puppeteer and voice of Cecil and the villain Dishonest John.
Freberg went on to create numerous voices for Warner Bros. Looney Tunes and Walt Disney Productions, including Lady and the Tramp, in which he supplied the voice of the beaver.
He also worked extensively in radio. The cult classic Stan Freberg Show, an inspired mix of comedy sketches and song parodies, is still revered today.
In the early 1950s, Freberg was one of the first comedians to become a recording artist. In a series of satirical Capitol records, he lampooned all forms of popular entertainment in chart-topping singles and albums — from soap operas (“John and Marsha”) to Dragnet (“St. George and the Dragonet”) to Lawrence Welk (“Wun’erful, Wun’erful!”) and rock & roll (“Heartbreak Hotel,” “The Old Payola Roll Blues”).
Freberg’s gift for mimicry and his razor-sharp mind also took on the over-commercialization of the holidays in 1958’s Green Chri$tma$, and the landmark 1961 comedy album Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Volume One, a musical version of the history of America, for which he wrote all of the words and music. In 1996 Freberg released Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America, Volume Two and, in 1998, the four-CD boxed set Tip of the Freberg.
Freberg wrote and produced acclaimed television commercials for various products, and is credited as the first to effectively introduce humor into TV advertising. His best known spots include Contadina Tomato Paste; Jeno’s Pizza Rolls, featuring Clayton Moore as the Lone Ranger; Sunsweet Pitted Prunes, featuring longtime friend Ray Bradbury; and Heinz Great American Soups, starring Ann Miller as a tap-dancing housewife whose husband asks, ”Why do you always have to make such a big production out of everything?” The commercial won two Silver Lions at the Cannes Film Festival.
Many of his commercials have been enshrined in the Museum of Television & Radio and the Smithsonian. Freberg founded his own advertising firm, Freberg, Ltd.* (but not very), where he collaborated with his wife, Hunter.
Over the course of more than 50 years, Freberg made guest appearances on numerous television shows, including The Monkees, Amazing Stories, Roseanne, Today, Good Morning America and Larry King Live.
He was active in voice-over work for cartoons as well, and collaborated with his wife on numerous projects, ranging from books and recordings to TV appearances and keynote speaking engagements.
In 1946, Freberg was personally recruited by Syd Cassyd, founder of the Academy of Television Arts & Sciences, to join him in establishing the new organization. Freberg was also a founding member of NARAS (where he coined the term “Grammy”) and a member of ASCAP and the National Society of Art Directors, which presented him with a Gold Medal.
His many other honors included three Emmys for his work on Time for Beany and the Grand Prize at the Venice Film Festival for a series of animated commercials he created for Kaiser Aluminum. He also received the Writers Guild of America award for Best Comedy Radio Show and garnered more than 21 Clio Awards.
In 1988 Freberg published his autobiography, It Only Hurts When I Laugh. He was inducted into the Radio Hall of Fame and Animation Hall of Fame, and received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.
In 2006 the Television Academy honored him with the Los Angeles Area Governors Award.
Freberg died on April 7, 2015. He was 88.