Remembering The Satirical Side Of David Frost

Armed with a portable tape recorder in 1965, NPR's Art Silverman interviewed broadcaster David Frost, who died over the weekend at age 74. At the time, Frost was host of the NBC TV program "That Was the Week That Was." (03:28)

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ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

The death of British broadcaster David Frost over the weekend brought back memories of his interviews with famous people. Frost was known especially for his series of interviews with former President Richard Nixon. Most recently, he hosted a news and interview program on Al-Jazeera English. But for NPR's Art Silverman, before there was the serious side of Frost, there was a satirical one.

ART SILVERMAN, BYLINE: It was 1964; I was a high school student in New Jersey. Into the sitcom world of TV came a smart and clever show featuring David Frost. It was called "That Was the Week That Was."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS")

NANCY AMES: (Singing theme song) That was the week that was. LBJ makes hay...

SILVERMAN: It had begun in the U.K; now, it was here, an anomaly on American television. To say I was a fan would be an understatement. I recorded all the shows - the sound, that is; home video was still years away. And some weeks, I'd take the bus into Manhattan to see the show in person in its NBC studios.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS")

DICK NOEL: David Frost, Henry Morgan, Elliott Reid...

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

AMES: (Singing theme song) That was the week that was. Water floods anew. Johnson wants to freshen up saltwater so Israelis won't disturb the River Jordan's flow. Castro pulls the plug on Guantanamo. That was the week that was...

SILVERMAN: After its up-to-the-minute headlines were sung, Frost and others would make incisive and funny jokes about political figures and other newsmakers.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS")

DAVID FROST: Nelson Rockefeller, of course, says: Why should a man be prevented from becoming president simply because he's a divorcee? Sen. Margaret Chase Smith says: Why should a man be prevented from becoming president simply because he's a woman?

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

FROST: And Richard Nixon says: Why should a man be prevented from becoming president simply because he's Richard Nixon?

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

FROST: Even so, the Republican Party could well settle for him, in the end. He is, after all, the only candidate with experience in the one area where the polls show the Republican nominee is going to need it - defeat.

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

SILVERMAN: It's obvious here that David Frost's long entanglement with Richard Nixon predated his sit-down with the disgraced ex-president. It even predated the Nixon presidency.

But "That Was The Week That Was" didn't last long. It just didn't take with the American audience, and it was canceled in spring of 1965. I was there for the last show. With my little, unreliable, portable tape recorder, I went up to David Frost and poked a microphone his way. Nervously, I upcut my own question.

(SOUNDBITE OF 1965 RECORDING)

SILVERMAN: What would you like for say for New Jersey?

FROST: For New Jersey, I would like to say thank you to New Jersey because over the weeks of this show, I've done so many jokes about Hoboken, N.J.; Bayonne, N.J. And to everybody in New Jersey, particularly Hoboken and Bayonne, thank you very much.

SILVERMAN: Thank you.

As you can hear, Frost didn't buckle under my tough questioning. He was a perfect gentleman to a pipsqueak from the wrong side of the Hudson River. And he was just as gentlemanly in how he said farewell to his audience when the time came to end the run of "That Was The Week That Was."

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS")

FROST: Well, personally, I hate goodbyes. So let me just say hello out there because...

(AUDIENCE LAUGHTER)

FROST: ...that's it, really. That was "That Was The Week That Was," that was. Good night.

SILVERMAN: Well, personally, I hate goodbyes, too. I'll just say that was David Frost, that was. He died Saturday at age 74.

Art Silverman, NPR News.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV SHOW, "THAT WAS THE WEEK THAT WAS")

AMES: (Singing theme song) That was the week that was. It's over, let it go. Oh, what a week that was. That was the week...

NOEL: The producer acknowledges the cooperation of the BBC and David Frost's appearance by special arrangement with them.

AMES: (Singing) That was the week that was...

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