The Entertainer

I was well into my sixes or sevens before I noticed my Dad was different from other fathers.

It wasn’t until the fourth grade that it more meaningfully got my attention. We were asked to write down what our fathers did for a living. (They didn’t ask about our mothers.)

We were allowed to take this assignment home, even though it called for only a word or two. I took mine to my father, asking him how to spell “comedian.” He said he preferred “entertainer.”

The next day at school, we read our responses aloud. There were a lot of businessmen and government employees and several fathers working at the Pentagon. One girl reported that her father told her what he did was nobody’s business. Years later, I realized that her father worked for The Washington Post, when I noticed his byline as an overseas correspondent, then later as chief of the London Bureau and, before retiring, the paper’s ombudsman.

But I assure you, there were no other entertainers.

I’ve written plenty in this space about both of my parents, so if you’ve been around here for a while you have a sense of how my folks differ from yours.

My father turns a big number ending in zero today, so it gives me occasion to reflect on what makes him stand out. Not as an entertainer; most people already know that.

How My Father Is Different From Yours
by Monica Russell; oops, Welch

  1. My father has never worked in an office.
  2. My father went to work at night, usually around 8:30 p.m., after an extremely early dinner and a nap. For much of his career, he did two shows a night, six nights a week, including holidays.
  3. My father often wore a tuxedo to work.
  4. My father worked at a keyboard before yours did.
  5. My father couldn’t write a straight absence excuse after I had stayed home sick from school.
  6. My father took me on a cross-country train trip when I was 9; but he made me use the time to learn all 50 state capitals. Ask me any…
  7. My father took me to church ‘most every Sunday. He often tested me afterward on the homily. Ask me any…
  8. My father has been parodied on The Simpsons, Mad About You, Murphy Brown and Saturday Night Live.
  9. My father hasn’t really retired yet, though he tried. Just this week he said, “You may recall the vow that I made two years ago that I would come out of retirement on the day that congressmen would skinny dip in the Sea of Galilee. I have kept this solemn promise.”
  10. My father could probably make a list just like this one about his father.

Happy x0th birthday, Dad. You’re one of a kind.


Filed under Family and Friends, Movies, Television and Radio

14 responses to “The Entertainer

  1. Sally Royster

    Happy Birthday to your amazing and very entertaining dad. I think about him often and especially when I marvel at the lush wealth of fodder rolling in everyday. I want tickets.

  2. Dennis Jones


  3. Polly

    Happy birthday, Mark! I love this post — funny and full of love. I’d love to see Colbert interview him, or have him on the Daily Show. He really is a legend in political humor.

  4. Patsy

    Happy birthday to my friend, my “brother!”. It’s always a party when you’re around.

  5. chris

    Yay dad! Happy birthday Mr. Russell!!!

    Can’t believe he is 100…

  6. Marty

    …and your father was blessed with a very special daughter.

  7. Well how about that!

  8. Penny

    Happy birthday, Uncle Mark!

  9. John

    Say all you want, he’s always be my Dad. Love you!

  10. The things you learn here. Great post!

  11. Paul

    Please wish your Dad a Happy Birthday! I have been a fan of his since about the time of your fourth grade assignment… long before I met you. I was thrilled to meet him at your wedding. That was just one of many thrills that weekend.

  12. Happy birthday, indeed! What a great way to grow up!

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