I Was a Teenaged Mark Russell Fan

As a nerdy teen, I used to love PBS. Well, I still do, but there are more options now, aren’t there? I enjoyed Brideshead Revisited and I, Claudius and many nature specials, and as a geek with a burgeoning interest in politics – and American politics being of far more interest than Canadian politics to most Canadians (not to mention the world) – I used to enjoy the Mark Russell political comedy/musical shows. If you don’t know who Russell was, he was a satirist who used musical parodies and a piano to mock politicians and headlines. He was very talented and astute and a fun performer, but if you watch this (or look up some other of his clips online) you will really get a sense of how genteel he was and how innocent his commentary could be. I do not mean that as a bad thing – I wish we could dial so much of our nastiness and bite back, and return to this kind of discourse. It’s easy to mock, and many have mocked him (I seem to recall SNL took a rather funny shot at him some years back) and that is fair enough. Still, when I read that he had passed, I felt rather nostalgic for this relative naivete and kindness. (Canuck readers: do we/did we have a Canadian equivalent to this gentleman? I think not.)

By the way, I was such a diehard PBS-watcher as a kid and teen that one night, during one of the public broadcaster’s pleading, desperate fundraising drives, I felt compelled to help. I was watching with my brother, who felt equally moved by their plight. Together, we took my dad’s credit card (he was likely sleeping/passed out) and phoned in quite a pledge. Yes, there was hell to pay, but we did get a tote bag.