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Charitable Registration No: 889896924RR0001

Rich Little

Rich Little
Year Of Induction: 1998
Area Of Recognition: Performing Arts
Born: November 26, 1938
Birth Place: Ottawa, ON

Prime Ministers; every president since Kennedy; Hollywood icons such as Humphrey Bogart, Cary Grant, Clark Gable and John Wayne; pop culture heroes; Kermit the Frog and Dr. Ruth Westheimer - anyone who is anyone has been impersonated by Rich Little.

A master of more than 200 voices, the Ottawa-born impersonator first portrayed his talent as a young smart-aleck talking back to his teachers in their own voices.  In his early teens, he formed a partnership with another budding impressionist, concentrating on reproducing the voices of Canadian politicians such as Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton. They were performing professionally in night clubs by age 17.

Little started his amateur acting career at Ottawa's Little Theatre, winning his first acting award at the Eastern Ontario Drama Festival in Deep River, Ontario. He went on to become a successful disc jockey, frequently incorporating impersonations into his show. In 1963, Little issued two LPs in Canada; the first, My Fellow Canadians, concentrated on Canadian political satire and featured Little and two other actors impersonating figures well-known to a Canadian audience. The second album, Scrooge and the Stars, featured Little acting out Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol entirely on his own, playing all the roles as 22 different Hollywood stars, ranging from Jack Benny to Jack Webb.

In 1964, Little made his American television debut on CBS's The Judy Garland Show.

In 1965, Little provided the voice for the Pink Panther in two experimental cartoons, Sink Pink and Pink Ice.

In 1966 and 1967, Little appeared in ABC-TV's Judy Carne sitcom Love on a Rooftop as the Willises' eccentric neighbor, Stan Parker. He appeared on That Girl in 1967, as a writer who impressed Marlo Thomas' character with his impersonations. He also made two memorable appearances as accident-prone Brother Paul Leonardi in The Flying Nun, in 1968; it marked one of his few appearances as a character actor rather than an impressionist. In 1969, he appeared in an episode of Petticoat Junction as newly engaged fiance to Billie Jo in "Billie Jo and the Big Big Star".

Little was a frequent guest on variety and talk shows. With Johnny Carson, he captured The Tonight Show host's voice and many onstage mannerisms (and later played Carson in the HBO TV-movie The Late Shift). One of his best-known impressions is of U.S. President Richard Nixon, and he made many television appearances portraying Nixon throughout the '70s. He was a regular guest on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts in the 1970s, where he roasted celebrities such as Don RicklesJack BennyJohnny CarsonFrank SinatraJimmy Stewart and Kirk Douglas.

Little was also a semi-regular on the Emmy-winning ABC-TV variety series The Julie Andrews Hour, in 1972–73. He was named "Comedy Star of the Year" by the American Guild of Variety Artists in 1974.

Little's best-known continuing TV series was The Kopycats, hour-long segments of The ABC Comedy Hour, first broadcast in 1972. Taped in England, these comedy-variety shows consisted entirely of celebrity impersonations, with the actors in full costume and makeup for every sketch. 

The Rich Little Show (1976) and The New You Asked for It (1981) were attempts to present Little in his own person, away from his gallery of characterizations. Little also appeared on a second season episode of The Muppet Show.

Little has starred in various HBO specials, including the 1978 one-man show Rich Little's Christmas Carol, in which Little portrayed famous comedians in established roles. He has also appeared in several movies and released nine albums.

He also lent his voice to the narration of two specials which were the forerunners for the animated seriesThe RaccoonsThe Christmas Raccoons and The Raccoons on Ice.

In 1987, during We the People 200: The Constitutional Gala television special, Little personified various historical figures including Franklin D. Roosevelt, Edward R. Murrow, John F. Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr. Little's performance was described as eclectic, impersonating Henry Fonda as Abraham Lincoln and doing Winston Churchill giving a rousing speech.

Little was the host for the 2007 White House Correspondents' Association dinner.

Of his Canada's Walk of Fame star, Little says: "I thought that having my star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame was amazing, but now to be honoured by my own country is just the ultimate pleasure."

Interesting Facts

Little has been active in several charities, including the Juvenile Diabetes Fund and the Children's Miracle Network. He has been named to Miami Children's Hospital International Pediatrics Hall of Fame, and was honoured by the naming of the Rich Little Special Care Nursery at Ottawa Civic Hospital.

Little's partner, which he performed in a duo with during his teen years, was Geoffrey Douglas Scott. Scott grew up to become a Member of Parliament.

Little's talent for impersonation has been used in movies, when an actor's dialogue was impaired by poor health. When David Niven proved too ill for his voice to be used in his appearances in Trail of the Pink Panther and Curse of the Pink Panther, Little provided the overdub for Niven's voice. He performed similar duties to dub James Cagney's stroke-impaired voice in the 1984 TV movie Terrible Joe Moran, and in the 1991 TV special Christmas at the Movies by providing an uncredited dub for actor/dancer Gene Kelly who had lost his voice.

Little is also a talented artist: He started sketching images of friends and family at a young age, and he draws pictures of all the celebrities and politicians he imitates. Many of these charcoal sketches are incorporated in his shows!