Comedian and political satirist Mark Russell to be honored at center | Entertainment

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JAMESTOWN — The National Comedy Center and Advisory Board chairman Lewis Black will celebrate the late comedian and political satirist Mark Russell with a reception and dedication Thursday in association with Buffalo Toronto Public Media and Chautauqua Institution.

Russell’s friends and fans are invited to this special event, open to the public from 5 to 7 p.m. at the National Comedy Center, with a dedication and brief remarks taking place at 6 o’clock.

During the event, the National Comedy Center will have materials and artifacts from Russell’s career on display and will add one of his musical parodies as a permanent component of its Lyrical Laughter exhibit. Mark Russell’s America, a 2012 retrospective on Russell’s more than 100 PBS specials produced by WNED, will be presented in the Comedy Center’s theater.

“Mark Russell transformed the landscape of political humor in America and, in doing so, influenced a generation of comedic artists. His musical satires, beloved for decades by those inside and outside of Washington, made him comedy’s greatest lyricist. His comedy legacy is unique and incomparable,” National Comedy Center executive director Journey Gunderson said.

Russell, who was a founding Advisory Board Member of the National Comedy Center and a longtime Chautauqua Institution resident, passed away in March at the age of 90. He was born in Buffalo and became one of the nation’s foremost political satirists, skewering Democrats, Republicans and Independents for more than 50 years with stand-up monologues and song parodies beloved by audiences nationwide.

Perhaps best known for his acclaimed comedy specials on PBS, which were broadcast six times a year for nearly 30 years (1975-2004), many of which were broadcast live from Buffalo Toronto Public Media’s WNED PBS studios in Buffalo, Russell’s routines covered the latest news and political leaders of the day with song parodies based on musical standards with new lyrics customized for current events, while accompanying himself on the piano.

“Mark Russell was an extraordinarily talented satirist with a unique comic voice,” Black said. “He had a rapier wit, which are words I rarely use to describe a comedian. … Hopefully, people will now realize how important he was in the pantheon of comedy.”

Advance reservations are recommended at ComedyCenter.org/MarkRussell. A $33 contribution in Russell’s memory to support the non-profit National Comedy Center is suggested, and is inclusive of museum admission for the entire day.

Hors d’oeuvres and refreshments will be served at the reception, hosted by Black and Ali Russell.

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