Hey You Guys: The Surprising Start Of Morgan Freeman
You probably don’t need us to tell you that Morgan Freeman has enjoyed a celebrated career thus far but just in case we’ll mention that the 84-year-old actor has won an Academy Award, Golden Globe Award, and a Screen Actors Guild Award and that’s just scratching the surface. If you’re a fan of the velvet-voiced man, you’re certainly not alone. But how did Freeman get the top spot of Hollywood fame where he currently resides?
Making that climb has required pure dedication and tons of talent. It turns out that the man who has played so many serious roles got his big break on a children’s program! Freeman was a major player on The Electric Company from 1971 to 1977. The Electric Company was an educational TV show aired on PBS and aimed to help children develop grammar, comprehension, and reading skills similar to Sesame Street and Mister Roger’s Neighborhood. But The Electric Company differed in that it mainly featured adults acting out sketch comedy bits, usually with the words used in the sketch imposed over the screen. His six-year run on the educational program featured his stellar acting and rich, dreamy songs.
Favorite Characters Over The Years
One of Freeman’s most notable characters on the show was “Vincent, the Vegetable Vampire.” This sketch featured Freeman dressed up as a – you guessed it, vampire – fangs and all, in what looks to be a vegetable cellar. The bit not only helped young viewers at home learn plenty of V words but Freeman’s character also pushes the nutritional value of vegetables during his song. As a bonus, his incredible voice ends up stealing the show.
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Another treasured character that Freeman brought to life during his time on the show is “Easy Reader.” Easy Reader was a cool, hip cat dressed up fully in best digs that the the ’70s had to offer and was described as a “first-class genuine a-readin’ freak.” With the assistance of “Stanley” a giant computer screen that popped out words with similar sounds such as gum and guy for the “gu” sound, Easy Reader was feelin’ groovy! This character seemed to get his kicks reading anything that he could, such as the writing on a book of matches.
DJ Mel Mounds was “your daddio with the sounds to go.” This character would start off each sketch as the opening of a radio show. That day’s “lucky winner” was the name of a person that Mel Mounds would select out of a bingo spinner. The lucky winner’s first and last name had the same sounds such as Brenda Bradley. Freeman’s character would then call up the lucky winner with the offer of three songs that also had the same sounds such as “Breakfast in Brazil” and “Brown Bread” and the winner would then be able to choose which song they wanted to hear played on the radio.
Humor Gets An Upgrade
The Electric Company was designed for children of a older age and primarily targeted elementary school students. This was a vast change from the target audience of other popular educational programming for children during that time as both Sesame Street and Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood designed their content for younger children, around 4 years old and not yet in school. This meant that the cast could enjoy an overall more sophisticated sense of humor and work jokes that adults would find funny (while still being age-appropriate) into the skits. The show was designed for kids who grew up watching Sesame Street and now needing something more suitable to their likes and interests. In fact, the two shows were both produced by Children’s Television Workshop for PBS. For this reason, most 4-year-olds would likely not be able to grasp many of the jokes and concepts on The Electric Company.
Freeman is obviously an incredible actor which is evident by his many awards and the amazing roles that he gets offered. But there’s also a chance that part of the reason that he is such a beloved actor is due to his time spent at The Electric Company. Because the show was so popular in the 70s, there’s likely throngs of people in their 40s (at the time of this writing) who will always have a special place in their heart for the man who helped them form stone-cold sentences and helped to foster a love of proper grammar. Thank you, Vincent, the Vegetable Vampire – err, Morgan Freeman.
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Source: Mental Floss, People, Common Sense Media
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