punch

January 3, 2006



WORKER DURING THE DAY, FUNNY GIRL AT NIGHT
by Doug Taylor

"I was the mascot for the men's basketball team at LaSalle University,” explained Kristin Russo. “That is as close as I got, except always being the class clown, to doing anything like comedy.”

Russo is now officially a professional comedienne, since she now gets paid to stand in front of people and make them fall out of their chairs in laughter – at and/or with her.

“When I am on stage I have to explain to people that we are all in this together. I just happen to be the person standing on the stage, under the lights. When I am on-stage, I look at the audience as just a bunch of friends who want me to make them laugh and have a good time. Some how or another, I do that without being afraid. I’m having a great time so, since these are my friends –they must be too – they came to see me – we just all have a great time together. I am always laughing (unless I tell a bad joke, then I scowl with the audience) and laughter is infectious. And, the funniest part is that I get paid to make people laugh. I’ve always done that for free – that’s funny.”

Russo is a 1998 graduate of Lakota West High School and went to college at LaSalle University in Philadelphia. She was a marketing major/communications minor at LaSalle. She was recruited to LaSalle to play volleyball, having won many distinctions for her volleyball skills in high school, including 2nd team all state honors.

Part of what makes Russo a great presence on stage and made her an all-star volleyball player in high school and college is her 5’8” (and ¾” she is quick to remind anyone who misquotes her stats) stature, auburn flowing hair, raspy voice, and facial expressions that mimic her contagious laughter.

Her daytime job, and admittedly the one that still pays the bills, is as the Vibe Manager for hyperQUAKE, a multifaceted communication company in the Textile Building on Fourth Street.

“I do a little bit of everything for hyperQUAKE,” explained Russo. “I start by answering the phone, and it just gets more complicated from there. I do some public relations, some meeting planning, some selling, just about anything that needs done except for the technical stuff and cleaning the toilets and windows. I don’t do windows, and our guys that do the technical stuff are so good that I wouldn’t dare even go there.”

Russo, unknowingly, subscribes to the theory that “when life hands you lemons, make lemonade.”

“A guy I was dating moved away from Cincinnati. I didn’t know what I would do to keep busy after he left. I never watched comedy, never liked comedy and never thought of doing comedy. But, before he left, we went to the Funny Bone on the Levee. I checked their website a couple nights later, and there was a question ‘so you think you are funny?’ and I thought, yeah I’m funny, everyone has always said I am. So, I took their class, an eight week deal, and went through the graduation which was a couple of minutes on stage in front of a full-house. I wasn’t nervous about being on stage, just thought of the audience as a bunch of friends, and did pretty good – good enough to get invited back.”

The life of a comedienne, especially in its infancy, is a bumpy road.

“I went through the classes, and did pretty well, I guess. When you first start, you are an ‘amateur,’ which means you might get a few minutes on stage and not get paid – but you don’t have to pay to get in! Then, if you do well, you get to MC (master/mistress of ceremonies) a show. Next you are a featured act, then a headliner, and then you buy the club and set your own rules! I just got to MC, so I won’t be hiring or firing anyone anytime soon.”

One of Russo’s skills is the ability to deal with “stars.” She performed for a major Cincinnati company’s holiday party. In the audience was Icky Woods of Cincinnati Bengals fame.

“I got Icky to come up on stage and do his famous ‘Icky Shuffle.’ The audience loved it, which is my job – to make the audience happy. The only downside, I had to pledge my night’s wages to his charity, but I didn’t mind a bit, it was such a rush.”

Russo made a “to do” list when she was in high school. Included on that list was to run a marathon. Last year she ran ¼ of the Flying Pig Marathon, this year she will do ½ of the Pig. One of the other major goals was to be on the Tonight Show.

She is an ambitious, talented and funny young lady who is studying, learning, and perfecting her skills so that she might someday be sitting to the right of Jay Leno – laughing all the time along with Jay and the audience.