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Rich Little performing as George Burns in 2004
November 26, 1938 |
Ottawa, Ontario, Canada
|Medium||Stand-up comedy, television|
|Subject(s)||Impersonations, popular culture|
|Spouse||Jeanne Worden (1971–1989; 1 daughter)
Jeannette Markey (1994–1997)
Marie Marotta (2003–2010)
Catherine Brown (2012–present)
Little was born in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, the middle of three sons of Elizabeth Maud (née Wilson) and Lawrence Peniston Little, a doctor. In his early teens, he formed a partnership with Geoff Scott, another budding impressionist, concentrating on reproducing the voices of Canadian politicians such as then-Prime Minister John Diefenbaker and Ottawa mayor Charlotte Whitton (Geoff went on to become a politician). They were performing professionally in night clubs by age 17.
Little was an usher at the Elgin Movie Theatre in Ottawa where he would perfect his voices while standing at the back of the theatre. He 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, he was asked to audition by Mel Tormé, who was producing a new variety show for Judy Garland. The audition won him the job and in 1964, Little made his American television debut on CBS's The Judy Garland Show, where he imitated various male celebrities, including James Mason in A Star Is Born.
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 on The Flying Nun in 1968; it marked one of his few appearances as a character actor rather than an impressionist.
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 (reprising in 1991 the role of Nixon as ideal sperm donor in Gina's fantasies on the soap opera Santa Barbara.) During the 1970s, Little made many television appearances portraying Nixon. He was a regular guest on The Dean Martin Celebrity Roasts in the 1970s and was also a semi-regular on the Emmy-winning ABC-TV variety series The Julie Andrews Hour in 1972–1973. In response to his imitation of Jack Benny, the comedian sent Little an 18-carat gold money clip containing this message: "With Bob Hope doing my walk and you doing my voice, I can be a star and do nothing." He was named "Comedy Star of the Year" by the American Guild of Variety Artists in 1974.
His best-known continuing TV series was The Kopycats, hour-long segments of Peter Goodwright.
In 1981 Little appeared in a comedy LP called The First Family Rides Again, which was the fourth and final 'First Family' comedy LPs originally created by Bob Booker and Earle Doud. Little starred along with Melanie Chartoff, Micheal Richards, Shelly Black, Jenilee Harrison, Earle Doud, and Vaughn Meader, making light of U.S. President Ronald Reagan's years in the White House.
Little has starred in various 
Little was the host for the 2007 White House Correspondents' Association dinner. Although President George W. Bush was reported to have enjoyed Little's performance, it was panned by some reviewers for "his ancient jokes and impressions of dead people (Johnny Carson, Richard Nixon and Ronald Reagan)."
Little voices as a guest star in Futurama such as Futurama: Bender's Game, playing his own celebrity head: "This is Rich Little, impersonating Howard Cosell." Many times he plays a sports commentator.
Little has been active in several Ottawa Civic Hospital.
Little was married to Jeanne Worden from 1971 until their divorce in 1989. The couple have a daughter, Bria. He married Jeannette Markey in 1994; they divorced in 1997. He was married to Marie Marotta from 2003 until her death (of a deliberate overdose of sleeping pills after suffering from chronic pain) in 2010. He married his fourth wife, Catherine Brown, in a private ceremony in 2012.
Little resides in Las Vegas, where he often performs. He was sworn in as an American citizen in a Las Vegas courtroom on January 10, 2008.
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