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Nipsey Russell

Nipsey Russell

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Julius “Nipsey” Russell (September 15, 1918 – October 2, 2005) 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.

In 1952, 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.

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