Russell entertains supporters of MPT


He may have pretty much spared bankers in view of the night's purpose, but political satirist Mark Russell could hardly be expected to resist another tempting target in his Monday night appearance in Baltimore on behalf of Maryland Public Television.

After saying hello to State Comptroller Louis L. Goldstein, who was in the Omni Hotel audience, Russell noted Governor William Donald Schaefer could not be there, "because he's dedicating an outhouse over in Salisbury."

Actually, said Russell, Schaefer's recent vulgarity which irritated the Eastern Shore was a long overdue gaffe and could not compare to the material some of Maryland's other recent governors have provided the humor trade.

The bespectacled mainstay of the PBS schedule was in town to perform for representatives of corporations and other local entities whose donations underwrite public TV operations. And the financial industry's contributions were the reason he scrapped some of his act dealing with the nation's banking crisis, Russell said.

Yet his targets were numerous, as the humorist showed he remains at the top of his trade. Some of Media Monitor's favorite jibes:

* On the U.S. Army, in its Persian Gulf buildup -- "Only in America does the Army call a press conference to say it isn't ready."

* On Vice President Dan Quayle -- "Picture Tommy Smothers doing Winston Churchill."

* On former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop -- "It's hard to believe he was once a three-pack-a-day man -- and that's a lot of condoms, I think you'll agree."

* On former Washington Mayor Marion Barry, when Soviet Premier Mikhail Gorbachev visited the capital -- "He gave Gorby the kilo to the city."

* On Democratic presidential candidate Michael Dukakis -- "The Democrats picked the one bland Greek in America . . . I called him Zorba the Clerk."

Russell's appearance was an invitation-only event, but MPT viewers can sample his clever work twice later this month: "The Mark Russell Comedy Special" airs at 9 p.m. next Wednesday (Feb. 20), and his first taped special, "Mark Russell's England," is at 10 p.m. Feb. 27, with highlights of his summer performances abroad.

ET TU, BROKAW? -- There was a moment of irony in the pretty banal PBS promotional film which was shown preceding Russell's act: NBC anchor Tom Brokaw appeared in a clip to praise public TV for offering "something besides the five-second sound bite . . . It challenges us intellectually."

Hmmmm. Say, Tom, where did that derogatory phrase "five-second sound bite" come from in the first place? Network newscasts, maybe?

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