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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 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. Russell was also a frequent guest on Dean Martin’s Celebrity Roasts.

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 served as a medic in the United States Army during World War II, enlisting as a private on June 27, 1941, and returning from Europe in 1945 as a second lieutenant. 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. He was discovered after he began performing in nightclubs in the 1950s. He subsequently made many “party albums,” which were essentially compilations of his stand-up routines.

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