World Library  
Flag as Inappropriate
Email this Article

Nipsey Russell

Article Id: WHEBN0001165709
Reproduction Date:

Title: Nipsey Russell  
Author: World Heritage Encyclopedia
Language: English
Subject: The Wiz (film), Your Number's Up, The Dean Martin Comedy World, Tin Woodman, Barefoot in the Park (TV series)
Collection: 1918 Births, 2005 Deaths, 20Th-Century American Poets, African-American Comedians, African-American Game Show Hosts, African-American Male Actors, African-American Male Dancers, African-American Military Personnel, African-American Poets, American Comedians, American Game Show Hosts, American Male Comedians, American Male Dancers, American Male Film Actors, American Male Poets, American Male Stage Actors, American Male Television Actors, American Military Personnel of World War II, American Poets, Cancer Deaths in New York, Deaths from Stomach Cancer, Las Vegas Entertainers, People from Atlanta, Georgia, United States Army Officers
Publisher: World Heritage Encyclopedia

Nipsey Russell

Nipsey Russell
Russell in 1971
Birth name Julius Russell
Born (1918-09-15)September 15, 1918
Died October 2, 2005(2005-10-02) (aged 87)
New York City, New York
Resting place Cremation
Medium Stand-up comedy, television, film
Nationality American
Years active 1950–1996
Influences Michael Gough, Dean Martin, Pat Hingle, James Brown, Milton Berle, Foster Brooks, Orson Welles, Redd Foxx
Influenced Bernie Mac

Julius "Nipsey" Russell (September 15, 1918 – October 2, 2005)[1][2] was an American comedian, best known today for his appearances as a guest panelist on game shows from the 1960s through the 1990s, especially Match Game, Password, Hollywood Squares, To Tell the Truth and Pyramid. His appearances were frequently distinguished in part by the short, humorous poems he would recite during the broadcast. These lyrics became so closely associated with Russell that Dick Clark, Bill Cullen, Betty White, and others regularly referred to him as "the poet laureate of television." He also had a leading role in the film version of The Wiz as the Tin Man. He was also a frequent guest on the long-running "Dean Martin Celebrity Roast" series.


  • Early life 1
  • Early career 2
  • Game shows 3
  • Later career and death 4
  • References 5
  • External links 6

Early life

Born in Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta and attended the University of Cincinnati for one semester in 1936.[3] He served as a medic in the United States Army during World War II, enlisting as a private on June 27, 1941, and returning from Europe in 1945 as a second lieutenant.[4][5] He got his start in the 1940s as a carhop at the Atlanta drive-in The Varsity, where he increased the tips he earned by making customers laugh. He was discovered after he began performing in nightclubs in the 1950s. He subsequently made many "party albums," which were essentially compilations of his stand-up routines.

Early career

In the mid-1950s Russell joined forces with the popular movie comedian Mantan Moreland for a stage act, replacing Ben Carter as Moreland's dapper straight man. One of their bits was an old routine that Moreland and Ben Carter had performed in vaudeville and in Charlie Chan films. In the "interruption routine" (or "incomplete sentences") Moreland would engage Russell in conversation, only to be interrupted by Russell, who in turn was interrupted by Moreland:

Moreland: Guess who I saw? I saw old —
Russell: Is he back again? I thought he was —
Moreland: He was, but he got out.
Russell: Is that so?
Moreland: Yeah, he was over —
Russell: Is that so?

Soon the entire conversation was conducted in incomplete sentences, with each man anticipating or contradicting the other. Moreland and Russell's act can be seen in two all-black-cast compilation films, Rhythm and Blues Review and Rock and Roll Revue; another variation of the "interruption routine" performed by Tommy Davidson and Savion Glover, was featured in Spike Lee's 2000 film Bamboozled.

In the late 1950s, Russell appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, which led to a supporting part as a New York policeman in the sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? in 1961. In 1965 he became a co-host of ABC's Les Crane Show. During the 1970s, he was a co-star in the ABC sitcom Barefoot in the Park and appeared regularly on The Dean Martin Show and The Dean Martin Comedy World. Scattered appearances on television series followed, as well as occasional guest-host stints on The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era. Russell also appeared frequently in Las Vegas; including a series of appearances with Sergio Franchi at the Frontier Hotel in 1978 and 1979,[6][7][8] and with Franchi in 1979 at the Sands Hotel Copa Room.[9]

Game shows

Russell became the first black performer to become a regular panelist on a daily network game show when he joined ABC's Missing Links in 1964. Another ABC show, Rhyme and Reason, had poetry for a premise:

Host: Conny Van Dyke looks like a girl I once dated...
Russell: And now, all my dreams are strictly X-rated!
Host: Jack said to Jill when they came down the hill...
Russell: We didn't go there for water — I hope you take the pill!

In 1971 he started as a featured panelist on To Tell the Truth, which led to his being hired for The Match Game when Goodson-Todman Productions revived it two years later. He also served as panelist in 1968 on the syndicated version of What's My Line?. Producer Bob Stewart featured him regularly as a panelist on Pyramid throughout its 1970s and 1980s runs. Russell would host two game show pilots: one was Star Words for Mark Goodson in 1983 and a revival of Jackpot for Bob Stewart in 1984. These pilots were shot for CBS, but neither pilot was picked up by the network. Russell went on to host two revivals of Jack Barry and Dan Enright's Juvenile Jury for BET from 1983 to 1984, then again for syndication from 1989 to 1991. In 1985, Russell hosted the short-lived 1985 NBC game show Your Number's Up, which was produced by Sande Stewart.

During his appearances on game shows, at some point in the broadcast the host would give the floor to Russell, who would recite a self-penned poem from memory, looking straight into the camera.[10] These poems from game show appearances are typical of his style and wit:

What is the secret of eternal youth?
The answer is easily told;
All you gotta do if you wanna look young
Is hang out with people who are old.
If you ever go out with a schoolteacher,
You're in for a sensational night;
She'll make you do it over and over again
Until you do it right.
The young people are very different today;
And there's one sure way to know;
Kids used to ask where they came from;
Now they'll tell you where you can go!

He was a trained dancer, influenced in his youth by legendary performer Jack Wiggins. Russell put these talents to use in the 1978 musical The Wiz as the Tin Man. He also appeared on the big screen in 1994's adaptation of Car 54, Where Are You?, reprising his role as Anderson, who had now been promoted from sergeant to captain.

Later career and death

During the 1990s Russell gained popularity with a new generation of television viewers as a regular on Late Night with Conan O'Brien. Russell would often appear during comedy sketches between scheduled guests and deliver his trademark rhymes.

Russell's final TV appearance was as a panelist on a game show-themed week on the final season of the Tom Bergeron version of Hollywood Squares.

He died in 2005 at the age of 87 in New York City, after suffering from stomach cancer. His ashes were buried in the Atlantic Ocean.


  1. ^ Nipsey J. Russell, born 15 September 1918, died 2 October 2005. Social Security Administration. Social Security Death Index (Death Master File).
  2. ^ U.S. Census, 1 January 1920, state of Georgia, county of DeKalb, city of Atlanta, enumeration district 180, page 4-A, family 75, Julius Russell, age 1 year 2 months.
  3. ^ Gail Fredensborg, Associate Registrar, University of Cincinnati, 9 January 2006.
  4. ^ National Archives and Records Administration. U.S. World War II Army Enlistment Records, 1938-1946 [database online]. Provo, Utah:, Inc., 2005.
  5. ^ Passenger list of the S.S. General Harry Taylor, Port of New York, 13 September 1945, p. 233.
  6. ^ Entertainment in Las Vegas. (September 1, 1978). Seattle Daily Times, Seattle, WA
  7. ^ Entertainment in Las Vegas. (January 14, 1979). Seattle Daily Times, Seattle, WA
  8. ^ Entertainment in Las Vegas. (May 18, 1979). Seattle Daily Times, Seattle, WA
  9. ^ Entertainment in Las Vegas. (February 15, 1979). Seattle Daily Times, Seattle, WA
  10. ^ Eakin, Marah; Teti, John; Adams, Erik (June 16, 2014). "Bonus round stars: 9 celebrities who found their greatest fame on game shows".  

External links

This article was sourced from Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike License; additional terms may apply. World Heritage Encyclopedia content is assembled from numerous content providers, Open Access Publishing, and in compliance with The Fair Access to Science and Technology Research Act (FASTR), Wikimedia Foundation, Inc., Public Library of Science, The Encyclopedia of Life, Open Book Publishers (OBP), PubMed, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Center for Biotechnology Information, U.S. National Library of Medicine, National Institutes of Health (NIH), U.S. Department of Health & Human Services, and, which sources content from all federal, state, local, tribal, and territorial government publication portals (.gov, .mil, .edu). Funding for and content contributors is made possible from the U.S. Congress, E-Government Act of 2002.
Crowd sourced content that is contributed to World Heritage Encyclopedia is peer reviewed and edited by our editorial staff to ensure quality scholarly research articles.
By using this site, you agree to the Terms of Use and Privacy Policy. World Heritage Encyclopedia™ is a registered trademark of the World Public Library Association, a non-profit organization.

Copyright © World Library Foundation. All rights reserved. eBooks from Project Gutenberg are sponsored by the World Library Foundation,
a 501c(4) Member's Support Non-Profit Organization, and is NOT affiliated with any governmental agency or department.