Nipsy Russell: The Rhyming Comedian

Originally posted in 2012

Today is the birthday of Julius “Nipsy” Russell (1918-2005). Those of us a certain age remember him as the guy who used to go on all the game shows as a panelist and recite humorous rhyming poems. But he was more than a one-tick pony.

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He was a trained dancer (influenced by Harlem tapper Jack Wiggins), started out doing stand-up comedy in his native Atlanta, and for awhile was the comedy partner of Mantan Moreland in a crosstalk act. A booking on the Ed Sullivan Show in the late 50s led to a host of other bookings – -a lucrative television career that lasted almost half a century.

To learn more about the history of show businessconsult No Applause, Just Throw Money: The Book That Made Vaudeville Famous, available at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and wherever nutty books are sold.

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To learn more about silent and slapstick comedy please check out my new book: Chain of Fools: Silent Comedy and Its Legacies from Nickelodeons to Youtube, just released by Bear Manor Mediaalso available from amazon.com etc etc etc

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3 Responses to “Nipsy Russell: The Rhyming Comedian”

  1. Hi Travis – quick question – what’s a cross talk act?

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    • Pretty straightforward: two-person comedy act. The “cross talk” is the dialogue, punctuated by jokes. In the context of vaudeville, it was sometimes done while they were doing something else, such as dancing or acrobatic tricks, or between songs, but sometimes it could constitute the entire act

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      • Thanks Travis. I wondered if it was a version of one of my favourite “bits” where one person constantly whispers to another who is trying to speak to the audience. I love performing that!

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