Stan Freburg wants Baltimoreans to know he's got nothing against local icon Francis Scott Key. He just thinks it's funny to imagine the tune for "The Star Spangled Banner" was actually written by Key two years earlier as an unsuccessful advertising jingle for "Rumpelmeyer's Horse Shoes."
That is the premise, anyway, for one of the skits to be heard in "The New Stan Freburg Show!" It's a National Public Radio return to the thrilling days of yesteryear, when comedy variety shows were regular air fare. It can be heard in Baltimore at 7 p.m. Sunday on WJHU-FM 88.1. (It also airs at 7 tonight on Washington's WETA-FM 90.9)
Freburg says there is so much in the show to offend that he will be announcing a toll-free telephone number for complaints: 1-800-OUT-RAGE. He raves about a particular sound effect, too: Madonna jogging into a wall with her cone brassiere in the lead.
Speaking over the phone from California, Freburg suggests he is "the last network radio comedian in America." For his national comedy show that left the air in 1957 (in Jack Benny's old slot) was the last of its kind until this weekend's rebirth.
"I'm probably the last surviving guy who knows how to do this," says that tell-tale wry voice.
If you don't remember Freburg's radio work, or such classic comedy recordings as "Stan Freburg Presents the United States of America" or "Freburg's Underground," you will recognize his voice from countless commercials.
Freburg has been dubbed by some "the father of funny commercials," and one recent example (for Encyclopedia Britannica) uses not only Freburg's voice off-camera, but his son, Donavan on-camera. (He's the brainy kid sitting at a computer.)
The younger Freburg is also in the cast of "The New Stan Freburg Show!" along with David Ogden Stiers ("M*A*S*H"), June Foray (the voice of TV's Rocky the flying squirrel), Harry Shearer (formerly of "Saturday Night Live" and now doing multiple voices on "The Simpsons"), Naomi Lewis and Donna Ebsen (Freburg's daughter, who is married to the son of Buddy Ebsen, of "The Beverly Hillbillies").
A special guest is longtime friend Ray Bradbury. The author's legal tangle with fellow sci-fi writer Rod Serling over rights to a story is lampooned in a skit called "The Freburg Zone."
How did the radio show come about? Freburg says that a Washington Post profile a few years ago quoted him as saying nobody had ever asked him to return to the airwaves. Chief executive Roger Kennedy of the Smithsonian Institution (a co-sponsor of the show) read the story and called Freburg with an offer. The show came together under the producing auspices of station WETA and the BBC Light Entertainment division.