David Frye, Nixon impressionist, dies at 77

David-FryeImage Credit: CBS Photo Archive/Getty ImagesDavid Frye, a comedian who rose to national fame with his impression of President Richard M. Nixon in the late ’60s and early 1970s, has died in Las Vegas at age 77 of cardiopulmonary arrest, according to the New York Times, citing a rep for the Clark County coroner’s office in Nevada.

Frye’s political impressions in the late ’60s, including figures such as Lyndon Johnson and Richard Nixon, began his breakthrough. See this clip he posted on YouTube of an appearance on the Ed Sullivan Christmas Special in 1967 (see video after the jump):

His career really took off during the Nixon administration, when Frye (born David Shapiro) became a regular presence on television, and a headline act in clubs. He recorded four comedy albums in the early ’70s, including I Am the President (1970); Radio Free Nixon and Richard Nixon Superstar (1971); and Richard Nixon: A Fantasy (1973).

Nixon’s resignation caused Frye’s national star to fade, but he continued working, releasing He’s Back! David Frye Is Nixon in 1996, and Clinton: An Oral History in 1998.

For more, see the David Frye Impressions channel on YouTube.


Comments (11 total) Add your comment
  • scorpio9094

    I remember him well. His Nixon was one of the best. I don’t think anyone did a better Nixon than he did.

  • Billy

    Looks like we won’t have Mr. Frye to kick around anymore.

    • Mr. James T. Smith

      That’s right Billy. I guess we’ll just have to start kickin’ your ass instead, you trolling douchebag!

  • Garrett Goulet

    He did a great Henry Fonda too.

  • David D

    He certainly had his moment in the sun, but I saw him live at Dangerfield’s comedy club in NYC in the late 70s, and it was one of the most uncomfortable performances I’ve ever seen. He said he was recording the set for a live album, and not only was the material not very good — he spent most of the hour reading onstage from a script — but he berated the audience for not laughing enough. He’d say “THIS is HOW-ward Co-SELL” and pause. “No, see, you’re supposed to laugh and applaud when you hear me say that. We’re gonna do it again. THIS is HOW-ward Co-SELL.” We dutifully laughed and applauded, but nobody’s heart in that room was in it. However, to his credit, his impressions were so influential that comedians for years afterwards did impressions of HIS impressions.

  • Jerry Eimbinder

    David Frye (David Shapiro) was a close friend many years ago. He lived across the street from me in Brooklyn on East 17th Street near Avenue M. We often drove around in his father’s big black Cadillac. David started doing impressions when he was in high school. He thought one of his best was Sabu the Jungle Boy. But he dropped Sabu from his act because many people in the audience weren’t familiar with Sabu’s movies (Thief of Baghdad for example). He worked very hard on each new impression practicing for hours in front of a mirror. His
    favorite movies were the Frankenstein and Wolfman series but I think he didn’t feel they were appropriate subjects for his act. He could do more than 100 celebrities. He was always fun to be with.

  • David

    It’s odd how you don’t see impressionists anymore (at least not on television). I wonder why that is…………

    • John De Salvio

      Unfortunately, there are no more variety shows for such performers. No Ed Sullivan, no Steve Allen, no Dinah Shore, no Carol Burnett, no Smothers Brothers, no Flip Wilson, no…. etc.
      Now all we have is YouTube.

  • John De Salvio

    I had the honor of hosting the Comedy Workshop in New York City’s Champagne Gallery in Greenwich Village in the late 1960s. The weekly Workshop, which soon went national, included such soon-to-be headliners like David Brenner, David Kaplan (who also did vocal impressions, pre-Kotter), and of course, Dave Frye. It was always fascinating to watch Dave in the men’s room before going on, looking in the mirror to make sure he got the body movements, mannerisms, and gesticulations just right. He was little more than five feet tall. And was a professional in every sense of the word.
    I wasn’t at Dangerfield’s during the performance referenced by David D (above), but remember Rodney Dangerfield hogging The Improv mic for more than an hour one night in the late 1960s until one of my female singers walked up to him and took away the microphone. The audience burst into wild applause!

  • Veituinaneilk

    Yes, correctly.

  • expositores de publicidad

    Useful info. Lucky me I found your site accidentally, and I am shocked why this coincidence did not happened earlier! I bookmarked it.

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