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Political Satirist and Entertainer at UMD

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Mark Russell's Only Midwest Appearance - at UMD!

Rarely has any comedian made more of an impact on American politics than Mark Russell. Before Jon Stewart, before Stephen Colbert, Mark Russell tickled our funny bones while attempting to untangle the mess lovingly called Capitol Hill. While TV Guide once referred to him as “the funniest man on television,” Mark Russell disagrees. For him, “the funniest guys are always on C-SPAN.”

Mark Russell  

UMD School of Fine Arts and Office of the Chancellor present
To benefit UMD Theatre Scholarships
Hosted by Tom & Pat Isbell

Friday, January 11, 2013 at 7 pm
Marshall Performing Arts Center
$25 - admission
Tickets:  218-726-8561 |

UMD Theatre's Tom Isbell has collaborated with Mark Russell on two children's productions with the White House Historical Association at Washington's Kennedy Center.

More tidbits on MARK RUSSELL...

Long before Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert, there was Mark Russell, daring to joke and sing of the often absurd political process. He started in a little piano bar on Capitol Hill – right across from the lawmakers themselves. As he puts it, "I started at the bottom and managed to work my way down." He began knowing little about politics, but was an immediate hit because he could find humor in anything.

Until he retired in 2010, Mark played off the day's headlines, performing stand-up comedy while accompanying himself on the piano.  He retired, as he said, because “fifty years ago I promised myself I would retire when I needed to write a parody with the words ‘trans-vaginal ultrasound’ in it.” Luckily, he came out of retirement when he heard that congressmen were cavorting in the Sea of Galilee.

With impeccable timing, twinkling eyes and shock-of-recognition insights into American politics, Mark draws merriment from the pomposity of public life. Reading three or four newspapers a day allows him to constantly update his material. The result is that no two shows are ever identical. “I thrive on newspapers.” he frequently states. “And it looks like I’ll be thriving longer than them.”

Political satirist and comedian
Mark Russell performs at UMD on Friday, January 11.

A native of Buffalo, NY, Mark Russell's first heroes were entertainers. Radio comedians like Fred Allen and Jack Benny had audiences screaming for satire. It seems that everyone was making fun of self-important people. Groucho Marx was Dr. Quackenbush. Bugs Bunny was Toscanini. Charlie Chaplin was Hitler.

Comic anarchy and making fun of authority figures inspired Mark. He readily admits that he dodged the draft. He did it by joining the Marine Corps.

Mark Russell spent 30 years on public television as host of the "Mark Russell Comedy Specials," consistently among the top-rated shows. Recently, a retrospective of his work (Mark Russell’s America) was broadcast across the PBS network. During those same years he wrote a syndicated column, and recorded CDs, tapes and videos. The rest of the time Mark Russell was on the road performing at colleges, conventions and in theaters.

He also has become a writer of songs for children’s theatre. "Teddy Roosevelt and the Ghostly Mistletoe." premiered in December 2009 at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts. This is the second children's musical, for which he has written the songs with playwright Tom Isbell (UMD Theatre Professor), and is a follow up to "Teddy Roosevelt and the Treasure of Ursa Major", which also premiered at the Kennedy Center.

Mark Russell still lives in Washington, DC with his wife. He is the father of three and the grandfather of seven.

And his answer to the frequently asked question, "Did you have any writers?" was "Oh, yes...I had 535 writers. One hundred in the Senate and 435 in the House of Representatives.

January 2013

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