Freberg, Stan (1926- )

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No one label fits Stan Freberg, but "the father of the funny commercial" seems a fitting epithet. The renowned advertising copywriter has received many more tributes, including Grammy and Clio awards; silver Lions at the International Advertising Festival in Cannes, France; and a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame.

Mr. Freberg was born in 1926 in Pasadena, Calif., the only son of a Baptist minister. A self-described lonely child, he spent long hours listening to Fred Allen and Jack Benny on the radio and loved to perform comedy routines for his pet rabbits. After graduating from high school in 1944, he began supplying voices for Warner Bros. Looney Tunes cartoons. He was also the voice of the beaver in Walt Disney's "Lady & the Tramp" in 1955 and appeared in several movies, including "It's a Mad Mad Mad Mad World."

In 1950, Mr. Freberg emerged as a comedy recording artist with a Capitol record, "John & Marsha." He went on to parody many of the cultural trends of the day with a satiric version of the song "On Top of Old Smokey" in 1951, a send-up of crooner Johnny Ray's overwrought ballad "Cry" in 1952 and even a parody of the infamous U.S. Sen. Joseph McCarthy called "Point of Order." Probably his most successful comic record was a satiric version of the police show "Dragnet."

In the summer of 1957, Mr. Freberg and his stock company of performers starred in radio's final attempt to present a full-scale, weekly comedy variety show, "The Stan Freberg Show." It ran for 13 weeks and took deadly satiric aim at the advertising business.

As the creator of radio comedy shows and a recording artist, Mr. Freberg had already made a name for himself when adman Howard Luck Gossage persuaded him to start writing commercials in 1956. In 1957, Messrs. Gossage and Freberg, along with a third partner, J. Joseph Weiner, formed Weiner & Gossage in San Francisco.

During the second half of the 20th century, Mr. Freberg delivered many memorable campaigns and set the standard for humor in advertising. His accounts included Chun King, Jeno's Pizza, Sunsweet prunes ("Today the pits, tomorrow the wrinkles") and Encyclopaedia Britannica.

Mr. Freberg has said that he was sidetracked into the ad business from a successful career as a radio and TV satirist because he disliked the way most advertisers attempted to communicate with him as a consumer. In his book, "It Only Hurts When I Laugh," he wrote: "If you don't like an ad, why should anybody else? . . . We're all consumers. . . . That's why I always create commercials for myself first of all. I am the consumer I know best. If I think it's a great commercial, I figure the rest of the people might think so, too. I haven't been wrong so far."

By 2004, Mr. Freberg was still lending his voice to commercials and other projects.


Born in Los Angeles, Aug. 7, 1926; produced first comedy record, 1950; joined Howard Luck Gossage and J. Joseph Weiner to form Weiner & Gossage, San Francisco, 1957; established his own company, Freberg Ltd., in Beverly Hills, Calif., 1958.

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