David Frye was born David Shapiro in Brooklyn, New York in June 1934. From an early age, he had an ear for voices and, while attending the University of Miami, Frye started performing impressions in campus productions. After a stint in the military, Frye embarked on a career doing stand-up comedy and impressions in the New York comedy clubs. But little notice was taken until the mid 60s, when he began including an impression of Robert Kennedy in his act. Unlike a lot of impressionists, Frye's impressions of the Kennedy brothers were all distinct and different. When Frye did a Kennedy, he didn't have to tell you which one he was doing. Soon, political figures, including President Lyndon Johnson and New York Governor Nelson Rockefeller, became a staple of Frye's act. Frye's Kennedy soon earned him a spot on The Merv Griffin Show.
And then came Nixon.
I was thrilled to see, in some of the articles this week, that I was not the only one who regarded David Frye as the greatest impressionist of all time, eclipsing the likes of Fred Travalena, Frank Gorshin and Rich Little. Frye's greatest success came with his impression of President Nixon, of course, but his repertoire was a lot larger than that. Among many others, Frye did a William F. Buckley impression that was, arguably, even better than his Nixon. Thanks for the memories, David. Thanks for the laughs. Rest in peace.
For those who'd like a Christmas tie-in, here's a 1967 appearance on The Ed Sullivan Show's Christmas special, taken from David's own YouTube channel. It's badly out of sync, for which I apologize.