Mark Russell’s America – A WNED Production Friday, Sept 7 at 9 p.m. on WNED-TV
“I have 535 writers – 100 in the Senate and 435 in the House of Representatives!”
-- Mark Russell, when asked "Do you have writers?"
For three decades, the savvy satirist from Buffalo dubbed "the funniest man on television" by "TV Guide" shared his insights on national and world politics and society. A master of pointed one-liners and sharp-witted piano parodies, Russell was an equal-opportunity quipster, lampooning events and newsmakers from all political persuasions.
This new WNED special features highlights from Russell’s more than 100 “Mark Russell Comedy Specials” broadcast by PBS between 1975 and 2004. It also features a recent interview with Russell as he provides inimitable context for his most memorable television moments.
Russell’s live performance specials became a PBS tradition and were among the network’s most-watched programs. Most originated Buffalo, N.Y., but others featured entertaining travelogues from around the globe, and “year-in-review” and “songbook” compilations.
Russell’s timely observations set the standard for political satire, entertaining audiences long before Jon Stewart, Bill Maher and the Colbert Report.
Accompanied only by his piano, Russell’s song parodies illuminated virtually any topic with poetic humor. As the character Doug on “King of Queens” observed, “I never knew there were so many words that rhyme with bipartisan.”
“Mark Russell’s America” covers the eras of Presidents Ford, Reagan, George H. W. Bush, Clinton and George W. Bush. Ample comedic fodder includes presidential campaigns, Congressional antics and defining moments 3/4 from Iran-Contra and the first Gulf War to the Monica Lewinski scandal.
WNED-TV produced the “MARK RUSSELL COMEDY SPECIALS” for PBS for almost thirty years after station executives “discovered” Russell performing at the Shoreham Hotel in Washington D.C.