Nipsey Russell was a comic who appeared as a guest panelist on several game shows through the 1960s, ’70s, ’80s and ’90s. Russell also played a leading part in the 1978 movie The Wiz as the Tin Man. His comedic routines were milestone in that he refused to use stereotypical dialects or play stereotypical characters in his performances. His work as a comic who defied stereotypes broke hurdles for increasing comics of histories. He expired on October 2, 2005.
Because his birth certificate continues to be lost, his exact birth date remains unknown, but upon his departure in 2005 buddies said he was 80 years old. Russell received the nickname “Nipsey” as a infant—“My mom just enjoyed the way the name Nipsey seemed,” he clarified. Russell started performing when he was just a toddler, and in the age of 3 he joined a children’s dance team called “The Ragamuffins of Tempo.” Russell remembered, “He came out immaculately attired in a nicely-dressed road suit and he tap danced. As he danced, he told small jokes in between. I needed to try this.”
Along with his talent for performing, the young Russell was also a precocious scholar with literary tendencies. By age 10, he was devouring the works of English poets including Chaucer, Shelley and Keats also as working through Homer’s epic poems in the first Greek. Nevertheless, Russell’s studies were interrupted by the outbreak of the Second World War. Upon the ending of the war, he returned to the University of Cincinnati and graduated with a diploma in classical literature in 1946.