Russo was a guest performer during the weekly contest that is under the direction of Lynn comedian Sal Votano. The Malden native had the crowd roaring throughout his 10-minute set.
Russo is one of comedy’s busiest and most sought-after performers. He appears regularly at comedy clubs and benefits throughout New England but he’s also been showing up on television as well.
Russo is host of Dirty Water TV’s “Wicked Funny Comedy Tour” on NESN and a reporter for Dirty Water TV/Dirty Water TV.Com that airs on NESN Saturdays and Sundays at 11:30 p.m. He is also drawing positive reviews as the host of Magner’s Comedy Festival, which is a weeklong comedy competition that also airs on NESN.
“I started my association with Dirty Water TV last year and it’s been a fantastic experience,” said Russo. “I performed at Dirty Water TV’s Nightlife Awards and I got a good response. I then pitched an idea for a comedy show to Billy Fairweather, who is president of Dirty Water TV. Magner’s Irish Cider came on board as a sponsor and we’ve been moving forward ever since.”
A former state wrestling champion at Malden High School, Russo has been a professional comedian for 13 years. His career took off in 2000 when he won the inaugural Boston Comedy Festival’s Best New Comic Award. He then finished third in the San Francisco International Comedy Festival.
He signed on with a college booking agent and traveled the country performing at more than 200 colleges. He moved to New York City and performed at New Joke City with Robert Klein.
“Ray Romano’s manager picked me to be on New Joke City, which is now called Live at Gotham on Comedy Central” said Russo.
But as popular as he was becoming at that point in his young career, Russo couldn’t have predicted the national exposure that was awaiting him in Las Vegas, the entertainment capital of the world.
On the night the Red Sox won the World Series in 2004, Russo was performing a show at a Las Vegas hotel. International recording artist and Las Vegas legend Wayne Newton was in the audience and asked Russo if he would be interested in auditioning for E Network’s “The Entertainer” show.
“That show was a great experience in my life,” said Russo. “I got to fly in a helicopter with Wayne Newton at the controls. He asked me, ‘Have you ever been on a helicopter?’ “I said, yes sir, and he said, “that OK, this is the first time I’m flying one.”
Russo really flourished on “The Entertainer,” impressing Newton with his comedy routine and his dead-on impression of Robert DeNiro. And though Russo just missed out on the $1 million top prize, he received a six-month contract with the Las Vegas Hilton Hotel.
Russo will be returning to Lynn on March 16 when he hosts the finals of the comedy contest at O’Brien’s Pub on Boston Street.