May 30, 2018

Freberg encore

A couple of weeks ago I shared a pair of Stan Freberg's classic TV spoofs, on Dragnet and The Lawrence Welk Show. As a radio and recording artist, Freberg's satire was nonpareil. But he could do television as well, with some of the funniest commercials ever seen. And, as was often the case with Freberg, the stories behind the commercials were just as funny.

Take the series of ads he did for Jeno Paulucci, the Duluth food entrepreneur responsible for Chun King Chinese food and Jeno’s Pizza Rolls. Paulucci hired Freberg to make a series of commercials for his products, and Freberg guaranteed the ads would result in a 25% increase in sales - if they didn't, Freberg would pull Paulucci in a rickshaw down Los Angeles’ La Cienega Boulevard.

As Paulucci recounted it, “the premise was the same for every one of Stan's [Chun King] commercials. We were trying to make hay out of our major disadvantage: Only a minority of Americans ever ate Chinese foods. One of the ads began: ‘Nine out of 10 doctors recommend you eat chow mein for dinner.’ The camera then panned slowly over our smiling medical corps. Nine of the doctors were Chinese.”

Well, the picture at the top tells the story. Freberg was right, and it was Paulucci who pulled Freberg down the streets of L.A.

Here's another of Freberg's commercials, this one for Jeno's Pizza Rolls. It's a spoof of the popular Lark Cigarettes ads running at the time; a truck with the sign “Show Us Your Lark Pack!” would drive through the streets, whereas people would hold up their cigarette packs. You can see the idea at work below, although Freberg typically adds his own twist,

It is said that when this commercial aired during Carson's Tonight Show, Jthe sudio audience applauded when it was done. People talk about the Super Bowl commercials every year, but if you haven't seen a Stan Freberg commercial, you ain't seen nothing. TV  


  1. It's true about that "Tonight Show" airing - I remember seeing it live, and Carson was laughing too. Same thing happened with the Mel Brooks Bic Banana ad ("Don't write with a prune - words will come out wrinkled and dopey").

  2. True Story, from 1961 (approximately):
    ABC had a daytime game show called Camouflage, which aired here in Chicago at lunchtime.
    Don Morrow was the host; ABC did this show "live-on-tape" daily at a midtown Manhattan theater that ABC maintained for that purpose.
    The live audience sat through the show in real time; this meant that they had to watch the filmed/taped commercials as they would play in the aired show.
    So one day, Don Morrow pauses in the game, and says: "And now a message for Chun King Chow Mein."
    Roll tape: a huge lighted sign flashes on:
    C-H-U-N K-I-N-G
    - to the tune of "Stars And Stripes Forever".
    Stan Freberg and his wingman Jesse White step out in front of the sign, arguing whether to still use humor in the Chun King spots.
    Freberg, using his "stern" voice, says flatly that from now on, they'll just do " ... regular commercials, with no entertainment!"
    There follows a spoof of hair care ads, with a glamorous lady swirling her hair at the camera, while an off-camera announcer purrs: "Dazzling - easy to manage - Chun King Chow Mein!"
    Grinning hubby says to glamorous wife that what's he's eating "couldn't possibly come from a can!"
    Another swirl shot, and announcer says: "Could it - or couldn't be - Chun King Chow Mein? - Only her grocer knows ..."
    Product shot, gong ... and fade.
    Back to Camouflage - and the studio audience is laughing and cheering what they've just watched.
    Don Morrow: "Stan Freberg, the best in the business! Now, let's get back to the game ..."

    A few weeks later, Camouflage again: Don Morrow pauses the game to say: "And now, Stan Freberg for Chun King!"
    It's a new spot, spoofing different ads; the finish has a suave announcer puffing a cigarette and saying "Man, that's chow mein!"
    This time, the Camouflage studio director has left the house mikes on - and we at home hear the studio audience laughing (in all the right places) at the commercial.
    Back to Camouflage, and Don Morrow simply says: "He's done it again!"
    Those spots ran throughout ABC's daytime schedule, but Camouflage was the only show (that I recall) to give Stan Freberg a shout-out like that.
    In fairness, I doubt that Day In Court would have been able to do that ...

  3. If I may digress into radio...

    One of the local radio stations dropped current oldies for older oldies. As part of the filler while they search for new advertisers, one piece that is getting some play is a radio house ad done by Freberg. Freberg plays a radio sales guy who is told by a Prospective Advertiser that he prefers TV beause he can see the product. Freberg then spins a story about draining Lake Erie, filling it with ice cream (large splat sound) and pouring whipped cream on it (large splort sound). He then commands the Royal Canadian Air Force to fly over and drop a 3,000-pound maraschino cherry on it (sounds of plane, noise of cherry falling and even bigger SPLAT when it lands), and the sound of 10,000 extras cheering the sight. He then explains why radio is better because it stretches the mind. It ends with:
    AD GUY: But TV stretches the mind
    FREBERG: Yea, up to 21 inches.

  4. Do this site only share the reviews of old shows or do you also share the reviews of new site as well. by the way I am using spectrum internet and cable servics is there any channel on it where I can watch old shows?


Thanks for writing! Drive safely!