1. Julius “Nipsey” Russell 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.
2. His appearances were frequently distinguished in part by the short, humorous poems he would recite during the broadcast.
3. 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.”
4. He also had a leading role in the film version of The Wiz as the Tin Man.
5. He was also a frequent guest on the long-running “Dean Martin Celebrity Roast” series.
6. Born in Atlanta, Georgia, Russell went to Booker T. Washington High School in Atlanta and attended the University of Cincinnati for one semester in 1936. He got his start in the 1940s as a carhop at the Atlanta drive-in The Varsity, where he increased the tips he earned by making customers laugh.
7. He was discovered after he began performing in nightclubs in the 1950s.
8. He subsequently made many “party albums,” which were essentially compilations of his stand-up routines.
9. One of their bits was an old routine that Moreland and Ben Carter had performed in vaudeville and in Charlie Chan films.
10. In the “interruption routine” Moreland would engage Russell in conversation, only to be interrupted by Russell, who in turn was interrupted by Moreland:
11. Soon the entire conversation was conducted in incomplete sentences, with each man anticipating or contradicting the other.
12. In the late 1950s, Russell appeared on The Ed Sullivan Show, which led to a supporting part as a New York policeman in the sitcom Car 54, Where Are You? in 1961.
13. During the 1970s, he was a co-star in the ABC sitcom Barefoot in the Park and appeared regularly on The Dean Martin Show and The Dean Martin Comedy World.
14. Scattered appearances on television series followed, as well as occasional guest-host stints on The Tonight Show during the Johnny Carson era.
15. Russell also appeared frequently in Las Vegas; including a series of appearances with Sergio Franchi at the Frontier Hotel in 1978 and 1979,
16. Another ABC show, Rhyme and Reason, had poetry for a premise:
17. In 1971 he started as a featured panelist on To Tell the Truth, which led to his being hired for The Match Game when Goodson-Todman Productions revived it two years later.