Satirist Stan Freberg, known for parodies, dies at age 88
April 6, 2015
Stan Freberg, an influential master of the lampoon who channeled his off-the-wall sensibility into groundbreaking radio shows, comedy albums and hundreds of humorous television commercials for products such as chow mein and prunes, died of natural causes on Tuesday at UCLA Medical Center in Santa Monica. He was 88.
His death was confirmed by his family, who said he had a number of age-related ailments, including pneumonia.
Freberg’s path to the nation’s funny bone was unconventional: Unlike stand-up comics who recorded comedy albums of their nightclub acts in front of live audiences, Freberg went straight into the studio and created what he called “audio moments.”
His 1953 spoof of Jack Webb’s Dragnet, called St. George and the Dragonet, captured the cop show’s famously staccato, monotone delivery and was widely considered his finest work as a mimic and parodist.
“There has been nothing comparable to Freberg’s ability to seize on a pop fad and, while it was still hot, capitalize on it,” Gerald Nachman wrote in Seriously Funny: The Rebel Comedians of the 1950s and 1960s.
Freberg’s satiric vision made him an idol to fans as diverse as the Beatles, Anthony Hopkins, Steven Spielberg and Tom Hanks.
The son of a Baptist minister, Freberg was born in Pasadena, Calif., on Aug. 7, 1926. Gangly and introverted, he spent hours lying on the floor with his ear next to his family’s console radio.
“My idols were Jack Benny and Fred Allen,” he said in a 1983 interview.