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Stan Freberg LP "Freberg Underground!"

Did Stan Freberg Invent the Comedy Podcast?

While on vacation this past weekend, I spotted a 1966 Stan Freberg comedy LP in a used bookstore. The album, Freberg Underground Show #1, audaciously announces on its cover that it is “Introducing a ZOWIE! new medium: Pay Radio!” Modeled after Freberg’s radio shows, the album replicates the same format, but was free from network meddling. As soon as I read that, I thought immediately of the burgeoning comedy podcast scene today, which includes a number of radio refugees (including Tom Scharpling’s “Best Show” podcast, formerly a radio show on WFMU).

The Freberg album art explains further on the back cover:

What do you Mean ‘Pay-Radio?’

There are no more network comedy radio programs any more. Trust me. They have disappeared from the face of America as completely as the Bison and the Edsel. The only thing more extinct than a network radio program is Mia Farrow’s hair. This album is an effort on my part to start replenishing the losss.

It was written and recorded like a real radio show, with actors, singers, a big orchestra, sound-effects men and a live audience. It even has a sponsor…Capitol Records. It is constructed in the manner of the old network comedy shows with two significant modifications: (a) the humor is contemporary; and (b) you can’t tune it in. You have to go into the record store and buy it. That’s why I named it ‘Pay Radio.’ Zap! Just like that I have invented a whole new medium! Let us hope that it does better than Pay-TV. If so I plan to do these on a regular basis. Say…every month.”

For those without a turntable, take a look at this transcription of the show’s script to relive the early glory days of Pay-Radio.

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One Response to Did Stan Freberg Invent the Comedy Podcast?

  1. Dennis Divine February 9, 2015 at 10:35 am #

    It’s ironic that Freberg’s “Underground” album was produced at Capitol the same year as the Beach Boys’ “Pet Sounds” recordings, not to mention Capitol’s ongoing abandonment of its 1940s-’50s artists for the British Invasion at the time. By then, the market for comedy/novelty singles was drying up.

    I’ve always loved Stan Freberg’s output & admire his longevity, but the ability to follow through is spotty: it took 25 years for part two of his “Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America” (with a brief resurgence at Rhino Records in the late ’90s), and we’re still waiting for the promised continuation of his 1988 autobiography that covered up to the mid-’60s.

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