he world of broadcasting has lost one of its leading lights and a much-loved friend, with the passing of Sir David Frost. A true heavyweight as a journalist, comedy writer and TV presenter, he died suddenly, aged 74, on board the cruise liner Queen Elizabeth.
The seeds of his glittering career were sown at Cambridge University, as secretary of the famous Footlights club. It was here where he met a host of comic greats in the making, including Peter Cook. Once his student days were over he landed his first ‘proper’ job with ITV.
A switch to BBC soon followed, as presenter of the satirical news programme That Was the Week That Was. Among the many rough diamonds honing their script-writing skills here was Python-to -be John Cleese, with whom the young Frost was to form a relationship that would lead to the popularisation of sketches, changing the face of comedy forever.
By the mid-1960s he had his own show, The Frost Report, a cutting-edge sketch series, which influenced an entire generation. In the most famous skit of the lot, ‘the class sketch’, Cleese was cast alongside Ronnie Barker and Ronnie Corbett to great effect.
When the introduction at the top of this piece mentioned ‘the world of broadcasting’, it was meant quite literally, because when Sir David’s career switched to political interviewing, he gained international recognition. In the US he will be best remembered for his interviews with Richard Nixon, which he conducted with consummate ease, often gaining the better of the former president. All of this went on to inspire a play and, later, a Hollywood movie.
Back home, Breakfast with Frost carried his work on in a similar vein, with a knighthood coming in 1993. During this period, he also became host of the light-hearted panel game show Through the Keyhole. Coincidentally, last weekend also saw the show’s relaunch, with Keith Lemon filling the role. Among the many tributes paid, perhaps the most touching and fitting has come from Frost’s Keyhole sidekick, Lloyd Grossman: “In his presence you forgot you were dealing with the Leviathan of broadcasting and just thought here is a wonderful man.”
So with the words ‘hello, good evening and welcome’, the catchphrase that became his trademark around half-a-century ago, we remember a true TV personality who was as great off the screen as he was on it.