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Audio Play / Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America

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Admit it if you had a briefcase that awesome, you'd
hang onto it for 35 years, too.

Announcer: Stan Freberg modestly presents The United States of America!

Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America is a two-volume themed comedy album by comedian Stan Freberg, which presents the history of the United States of America by way of a series of comedy sketches and songs.

The first volume (subtitled Vol. 1: The Early Years, and spanning from the first voyage of Christopher Columbus up through World War I) was released in 1961, with a second volume initially planned for the country's bicentennial in 1976; that second volume did not come out until 1996, two decades after the planned release.

While Freberg vowed in the liner notes for Vol. 2 that the third volume wouldn't take another thirty-five years to release (for one thing, he didn't think he'd be around that long), the project was subsequently shelved due to the death of his wife and his own health issues. Freberg's death in 2015 seems to have brought any hope of Vol. 3 to an end.

Track list

Side One

  1. "Overture" (2:18)
  2. "Columbus Discovers America: It's a Round, Round World" (9:55)
  3. "Pilgrim's Progress: Take an Indian to Lunch" (3:24)
  4. "Thanksgiving Story (Under the Double Turkey)" (1:12)
  5. "Sale of Manhattan: Top Hat, White Feather, and Tails" (5:55)
  6. "Boston Tea Party" (1:44)

Side Two

  1. "Declaration of Independence: A Man Can't Be Too Careful What He Signs These Days" (6:27)
  2. "Midnight Ride of Paul Revere" note 
  3. "Betsy Ross and the Flag: Everybody Wants to Be an Art Director" (2:58) note 
  4. "Discovery of Electricity" note 
  5. "Washington Crosses the Delaware (Command Decision)" (4:43)
  6. "Yankee Doodle Go Home (Spirit of '76)" (4:04)
  7. "The Battle of Yorktown" (4:04)
  8. Finale: "So Long, Friend" (6:43)

Tropes, tropes, tropes (Mutiny, mutiny, mutiny)

  • Accidental Misnaming:
    "All right, there's the signal. Get on the horse, Levine."
    "That's Revere."
    "Revere, Levine, just so you ride a horse good. Now get goin'!"
  • Anachronism Stew: Stan Freberg Presents the United States of America doesn't so much run on this as it is made of it.
  • Braids, Beads and Buckskins: Freberg delights in mocking the stereotypical perception of Native Americans throughout Vol. 1. (The reprise of "Round, Round World" includes the Indians singing the line "Yo ho ho and a buckskin sleeve," as one of many examples.)
  • Brick Joke:
    • The lines "Rumble, rumble, rumble. Mutiny, mutiny, mutiny." don't occur quite often enough to be a Running Gag, but they try.
    • Tyne Daly actually got cast for Vol. 2 by leaning over to Freberg during the Grammy Awards the preceding year and muttering "Rumble, rumble, rumble."
  • Colon Cancer: The original album was entitled Stan Freberg Presents: The United States of America: Vol. 1: The Early Years. The sequel was titled Stan Freberg Presents: The United States of America: Vol. 2: The Middle Years.
  • Concept Album: The history of the United States of America as a Broadway-style musical comedy.
  • Corrupt Corporate Executive: The song "Planned Obsolescence" features a general with a Punny Name "General...Electric! convincing Thomas Edison to change the design of his light bulb when he finds out it's designed to last forever.
  • Crazy Enough to Work: Charlie's companion's Catchphrase: "It's just wild enough, Charlie, it's just wild enough."
  • Eagleland: Mixed flavor.
  • Ensemble Cast: Freberg performs along with other actors, including Paul Frees, June Foray, Peter Leeds, Walter Tetley, and Jesse White. Foray, Leeds, and White returned for Vol. 2, where they were joined by such newcomers as Tyne Daly, Lorenzo Music, Harry Shearer, and David Ogden Stiers.
  • Face on the Cover: Freberg, posing with a briefcase shaped like the 48 contiguous states. For the CD reissue containing both the original album and Vol. 2, the older Freberg — standing in a similar pose and holding the same suitcase — is added alongside his younger self.
  • Flat Earth: The myth that Columbus set out to prove the earth was round against supposed disbelief is recycled in this. It's unknown though if Freberg believed this, or simply played it for laughs.
  • Genius Bonus: George Washington's half-hearted "run it up the flagpole, see if anybody salutes" during the Betsy Ross scene was a phrase often used by Madison Avenue ad men. (Freberg enjoyed a second career as a ad man himself.)
  • Historical Domain Character: All of the main characters, e.g. Christopher Columbus, Benjamin Franklin, etc.
  • In the Past, Everyone Will Be Famous: While the main characters all being historical figures should make this trope not applicable, Queen Isabella refers to Christopher Columbus' "friend, Da Vinci," bringing this work right back in line with this trope.
  • Medium Awareness: All of the characters are aware that they're characters in a musical, though only occasionally do they comment on it. Also, see Running Gag.
  • Mighty Whitey: Parodied throughout the first half of Vol. 1. Lampshaded with the reprise of "Round, Round World:" "Step aside, pal/Meet the new/Big cheeses of this/Round, Round World!"
  • Nice Job Breaking It, Hero: Abraham Lincoln convinces Harriet Beecher Stowe to rewrite Uncle Tom's Cabin in a much darker tone than she'd originally intended. The new version is blamed for the American Civil War.
    Lincoln: Yes, terrible book. Awful.
  • No Celebrities Were Harmed: Freberg uses a Lionel Barrymore type voice for Benjamin Franklin.
  • Punny Name: General Electric. Running Water.
  • Refusal of the Call: Barbara Fritchie thinks "Stonewall" Jackson can find something to shoot other than her old, grey head.
  • Rule of Funny: Everything. To wit: Why is Norman Rockwell in the American Revolution? Why are the same two guys responsible for multiple events in world history? Why would there be a General named Electric interested in the first light bulb? Rule of Funny.
  • Running Gag:
    "What was that?"
    "French horns."
  • Self-Deprecation: From the Vol. 1 liner notes:
    As you listen to this album you'll soon begin to understand why Stan Freberg flunked American history in high school.
  • Single Stanza Song: In two places.
    • The Tin Pan Alley sketch in Vol. 2 consists of two failed Tin Pan Alley songwriters doing a medley of their greatest hits.
    • The song "There'll Never Be Another War" consists of two different versions of the chorus, depending on which sketch it follows.
  • Tempting Fate: Both The American Civil War and World War I end with the song "There'll Never Be Another War."
  • The Theme Park Version: The events in the album are ostensibly based on American history.
  • Title Drop: An entire sketch about Stephen Foster having writer's block consists almost entirely of nothing but titles of his songs.
  • Those Two Guys: Charlie and his companion are the cause of numerous catastrophes, from the minor (making the wrong bird at the first Thanksgiving) to the major (sinking the Lusitania).
  • Traveling Salesman: During his Midnight Ride, Paul Revere is mistaken for one of these by one annoyed townswoman.
    Woman: I got all the pots and pans I need, sweetie.
    Revere: But... what about the British?
    Woman: As far as I know, they got all the pots and pans they need, too! (slams door)
  • Very Loosely Based on a True Story: Very loosely. Norman Rockwell wasn't alive during the American Revolution.
  • Waxing Lyrical: During the "Sale of Manhattan":
    Real Estate Agent: Make it $25 even, we'll toss in the Bronx.
    Peter Tishman: Nah, I couldn't possibly see my way clear.
    Chief White Cloud: We throw in Staten Island.
    Real Estate Agent: You hear that? Is that a generous Indian? You'll have Manhattan, the Bronx, and Staten Island, too! (phone rings) Hello? Yeah, Dick. Mmm-hmm. We use any more, we'll have to pay a royalty, huh? All right, sweetie, we'll knock it off. Right. Okay. Yeah, okay. (hangs up)
    Peter Tishman: I'll give you $24.
    Real Estate Agent: Sold! But none of that cash stuff. The chief's wife wants strictly junk jewelry.
    Chief White Cloud: Mmm. Baubles, bangles, bright shiny beads...
    Real Estate Agent: Yeah, hold it, baby, will ya? You're layin' yourself wide open for another phone call.
  • Who Writes This Crap?!:
    Columbus: We going out on that joke?
    Indian: No, we do reprise of song, that help.
    Together, sadly: But not much, no.
  • Ye Olde Butcherede Englishe:
    Franklin: (reading) "...that among these are Life, Liberty and the purfuit of Happineff"?!
    Jefferson: That's "pursuit of Happiness".
    Franklin: Well, all your s's look like f's here.
    Jefferson: Well, it's stylish.
    Franklin: Oh, I see.
    Jefferson: It's "in". It's very "in".
    Franklin: Oh, well, if it's "in"...

:Rumble, rumble, rumble. Mutiny, mutiny, mutiny.