The late political satirist Mark Russell was celebrated on August 17, 2023 by three cultural institutions that were woven throughout his life: The National Comedy Center, Chautauqua Institution and Buffalo Toronto Public Media. A ribbon was cut to mark the National Comedy Center’s acquisition of Russell’s career archives, which will be preserved and made accessible for generations to come.
We welcome donations to the non-profit National Comedy Center in Mark Russell’s memory.
These funds will support our work to preserve and educate about comedic works that make informed comment about the politics of the moment, acknowledging that these works constitute a valuable documented history of moments of great historical consequence.
Nancy G. Bargar
Thomas and Sue Benson
Shari Castle and Dana Pless
Polly, Elizabeth and
Bob and Carol Hopper
Teresa Kammerman, MD and
Jeremy Genovese, PhD
John and Jean Lloyd
Russell Public Communications
Kendall Crolius and
“Mark Russell was an extraordinarily talented satirist with a unique comic voice. With a mischievous grin, his signature bowtie and a happy-go-lucky piano style, Mark would skewer politicians and their politics through song. It made the savagery of his humor seem lighthearted as he took apart his targets through a thousand paper cuts.”
– Lewis Black, National Comedy Center Advisory Board Chair
“Mark taught me that comedy could be more than just funny and disposable. And he never stopped working, because the point is to keep writing the jokes until the jokes fix the problems.”
– W. Kamau Bell, National Comedy Center Advisory Board Member
“Mark Russell re-invented political humor as we know it today, ushering in a moment when it is not only one of the most popular forms of entertainment, but one of the most powerful forces for change. Political satire, when done well, can have real impacts on the course of American history. That’s Mark Russell’s legacy.”
– Journey Gunderson, National Comedy Center Executive Director
During the event, the National Comedy Center showcased artifacts from Russell’s career and accessioned one of his musical parodies — “A Candidate Political” — as a permanent component of its Lyrical Laughter exhibit. Mark Russell’s America, a 2012 retrospective produced by WNED, was also shown in the Comedy Center’s theater.
Russell, who was a founding Advisory Board Member of the National Comedy Center and a longtime Chautauqua Institution resident, passed away this past 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 over 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.