Mark Russell, Comedian And Political Satirist, Dies At 90

Mark Russell

Comedian and political satirist Mark Russell passed away Thursday, his wife Ali Russell confirmed. He was 90 years old.

Russell, born Aug. 23, 1932, in Buffalo, was one of the nation’s foremost political satirists for over 50 years, skewering Democrats, Republicans and Independents with stand-up monologues and song parodies beloved by audiences nationwide.

Perhaps best known for his acclaimed comedy specials on PBS, which he taped six times a year for nearly 30 years, Russell’s routines covered the latest news and political leaders of the day with song parodies based on musical standards with new lyrics customized for current events, while accompanying himself on the piano.

Russell continued to write and perform new song parodies well after his official retirement in 2016, posting new songs on social media throughout the pandemic and as recently last October, with songs taking on recent events including the January 6th insurrection.

He was also a founding advisory board member of the National Comedy Center in Jamestown. His work is preserved in the center’s archives with selections of his hand-written lyrics currently on display in its museum.

“Mark Russell transformed the landscape of political humor in America and, in doing so, influenced a generation of comedic artists,” said Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center executive director. “His musical satires, beloved for decades by those inside and outside of Washington, made him comedy’s greatest lyricist, and the artist most responsible for elevating the White House Correspondents’ Dinner as a premiere platform for comedy when he performed at the dinner 40 years ago. His comedy legacy is unique and incomparable.”


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