02-19-2017  8:37 am      •     

Some people talk as if growing up on a farm is the ideal childhood. Not Russell Parker.

 "I remember a lot of manual labor and a lot of boredom," he says. "We could spend all afternoon sitting on the porch snapping beans and shucking corn. And there was always a reason to fetch wood – even in summer. Summers were an eternity."

The high points?  

"I learned to wash windows with newspaper," he quips. "That and going to baseball practice."

One-liners and a dry wit are Russell Parker's trademark as a stand-up comedian. And people who've seen him perform say his act is different every time. So it's no surprise that in person he's spontaneously funny–as well as deadly serious.

The contradiction starts to make sense when Parker talks about being bi-racial, with an African American father who served in the U.S. Air Force and a Native American mother from the Salish and Kootenai reservation in Montana.

Parker says that Virginia, where he spent much of his childhood, was all about Black and White against the backdrop of the civil war. Even the convenience stores sold replica civil war bullets.

"As a minority, American history bored me, and I was surrounded by it," he says. "I didn't like my childhood, but it made me who I am. It didn't teach me what I wanted, but I learned what I didn't want."

He's only half joking when he says that he moved to Portland because it was the furthest place he could get from Virginia without crossing water.

It wasn't the first time Parker had been out West. Born in Guam, where his father was stationed, his parents split shortly after his birth. After that, Parker's mother took Russell and his sister to Oakland. But she struggled with stability, a legacy from her own childhood as an orphan who moved in and out of foster homes. So when he was five, the children were sent to live with their father and grandparents.

The many personas of Russell Parker cross the street

When Parker was 16  he did return to stay with his mother in Oakland. That eight-month spell as a high school student in Oakland was one of the best experiences of his life, he says. In part it was the excitement of being in a city with entertainment just a walk or a bike ride away. But it was also the freedom to be different.

"I had the best time in Oakland," he says. "Oakland was a very eye-opening experience. It taught me there's a whole world out there. No-one cares what you are, and I liked that. I could be whoever I was at that moment. I just embraced change, and when I went back to Virginia I had a whole new level of confidence."

Those months also gave him the chance to find out about the Native American side of his family.

"That summer I got to go to Montana," he says. "I got to go to pow-wows. I got to stay on the rez. I read a book."

Parker went back to Virginia for his senior year, but after graduation he moved to Oakland. He stayed for eight years, only returning East after marriage, a child and a divorce. That time around, he followed his ex-wife so he could stay close to his son.

Then, in 2007, Parker headed back West to Portland with an ambition. He wanted to work for NIKE. And he did manage to land a seasonal position in the store, he says. But when it came to an end he felt crushed.

"I was distraught," he says. "It was like the day you wake up and find there is no Santa Claus. I didn't know what to do."

Being funny had always come easily to him, so he looked at stand-up comedy.

"My mouth has always gotten me into trouble. And I'm good at being funny. So I decided I'd try comedy and if that didn't work, I'd sell all my stuff, buy a house in Montana and work at Walmart for the rest of my life."

In comedy, Parker can play around with all of his many obsessions: shoes; basketball; music; hiphop; cars. And he can also riff on the craziness of our attitudes to race, class and culture. Among his many alter egos is:  Wun Pist Awf Injun.

Today, Parker wears a tee-shirt he designed himself, that makes fun of the illuminati meme that now is found all over the Internet. The logo is an eye, framed with a feather, inside a triangle surrounded by light. Below it are the words illumi and Native. Below that is the link to his website: bookofrussell.com.

Parker's latest venture; the self-published, "Book of Russell," is filled with both his serious and funny sides. First written on Twitter, it includes the following gems:   

"When someone close to you is acting outlandish, don't bite your tongue. Bite theirs." 

"Live in the moment. If that moment requires you to be an A-hole, then still live in the moment. Just hope the next moment is better."

"Don't burn bridges just because you have fire." 

And if you need more to tempt you, Parker's description of his meeting with singer Toni Braxton is priceless.

Check out Russell Parker's many creative ventures online. (Just don't confuse him with Indian comedian Russell Peters.)  Find his website at: ParkernotPeters.com or bookofrussell.com

Recently Published by The Skanner News

  • Default
  • Title
  • Date
  • Random
  • WASHINGTON (AP) — One month after the inauguration, the stretch of Pennsylvania Avenue in front of Donald Trump's White House still is a hard-hat zone. Skeletal remains of the inaugural reviewing stands poke skyward. Random piles of plywood and cables are heaped on the ground inside crooked lines of metal fencing. The disarray outside the president's front door, though not his fault, serves as a metaphor for the tumult still unfolding inside. Four weeks in, the man who says he inherited "a mess" at home and abroad is presiding over a White House that is widely described as itself being a mess. At a stunning pace, Trump has riled world leaders and frustrated allies. He was dealt a bruising legal blow on one of his signature policies. He lost his national security adviser and his pick for labor secretary to scandal. He's seen forces within his government push back against his policies and leak confidential information. All of this has played out amid a steady drip of revelations about an FBI investigation into his campaign's contacts with Russian intelligence officials. Trump says his administration is running like a "fine-tuned machine." He points to the rising stock market and the devotion of his still-loyal supporters as evidence that all is well, although his job approval rating is much lower than that for prior presidents in their first weeks in office. Stung by the unrelenting criticism coming his way, Trump dismisses much of it as "fake news" delivered by "the enemy of the people" — aka the press. Daily denunciations of the media are just one of the new White House fixtures Americans are adjusting to. Most days start (and end) with presidential tweets riffing off of whatever's on TV talk shows or teasing coming events or hurling insults at the media. At some point in the day, count on Trump to cast back to the marvels of his upset of Democrat Hillary Clinton in the November election and quite possibly overstate his margins of support. Expect more denunciations of the "dishonest" press and its "fake news." From there, things can veer in unexpected directions as Trump offers up policy pronouncements or offhand remarks that leave even White House aides struggling to interpret them. The long-standing U.S. policy of seeking a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict? Trump this past week offered this cryptic pronouncement: "I'm looking at two-state and one-state, and I like the one that both parties like. I can live with either one." His U.N. ambassador, Nikki Haley, the next day insisted, "We absolutely support a two-state solution." Trump's days are busy. Outside groups troop in for "listening sessions." Foreign leaders call or come to visit. (Or, in the case of Mexico's president, cancel out in pique over Trump's talk about the planned border wall.) After the president signed two dozen executive actions, the White House was awaiting a rush order of more of the gold-plated Cross pens that Trump prefers to the chrome-plated ones used by his predecessor. Trump hands them out as souvenirs at the signing ceremonies that he points to as evidence of his ambitious pace. "This last month has represented an unprecedented degree of action on behalf of the great citizens of our country," Trump said at a Thursday news conference. "Again, I say it. There has never been a presidency that's done so much in such a short period of time." That's all music to the ears of his followers, who sent him to Washington to upend the established order and play the role of disrupter. "I can't believe there's actually a politician doing what he says he would do," says an approving Scott Hiltgen, a 66-year-old office furniture sales broker from River Falls, Wisconsin. "That never happens." Disrupt Trump has. But there may be more sound and fury than substance to many of his early actions. Trump did select Judge Neil Gorsuch to replace the late Antonin Scalia on the Supreme Court, a nomination that has drawn strong reviews from conservatives. But the president is regrouping on immigration after federal judges blocked his order to suspend the United States' refugee program and ban visitors from seven Muslim-majority countries, which had caused chaos for travelers around the globe. Some other orders on issues such as the U.S.-Mexico border wall and former President Barack Obama's health care law are of limited effect. Trump says his early actions show he means to deliver on the promises he made during the campaign. "A lot of people say, 'Oh, oh, Trump was only kidding with the wall,'" the president told a group of police chiefs recently. "I wasn't kidding. I don't kid." But the Republican-led Congress is still waiting to see specifics on how Trump wants to proceed legislatively on top initiatives such as replacing the health care law, enacting tax cuts and revising trade deals. The messy rollout of the travel ban and tumult over the ouster of national security adviser Michael Flynn for misrepresenting his contacts with Russia are part of a broader state of disarray as different figures in Trump's White House jockey for power and leaks reveal internal discord in the machinations of the presidency. "I thought by now you'd at least hear the outlines of domestic legislation like tax cuts," says Princeton historian Julian Zelizer. "But a lot of that has slowed. Trump shouldn't mistake the fact that some of his supporters like his style with the fact that a lot of Republicans just want the policies he promised them. He has to deliver that." Put Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., in the camp of those more interested in substance than style. "I'm not a great fan of daily tweets," McConnell said Friday, referring to the "extra discussion" that Trump likes to engage in. But McConnell was quick to add: "What I am a fan of is what he's been actually doing." He credits Trump with assembling a conservative Cabinet and taking steps to reduce government regulation, and promised: "We like his positions and we're going to pursue them as vigorously as we can." The challenge may be to tease out exactly what Trump wants in the way of a health care plan, tax changes and trade policy. At his long and defiant news conference on Thursday, Trump tried to dispel the impression of a White House in crisis, squarely blaming the press for keeping him from moving forward more decisively on his agenda. Pointing to his chief of staff, Reince Priebus, Trump said, "You take a look at Reince, he's working so hard just putting out fires that are fake fires. I mean, they're fake. They're not true. And isn't that a shame because he'd rather be working on health care, he'd rather be working on tax reform." For all the frustrations of his early days as president, Trump still seems tickled by the trappings of his office. When New Jersey Gov. Chris Christie visited the White House last week to discuss the national opioid epidemic over lunch, the governor said Trump informed him: "Chris, you and I are going to have the meatloaf.'" Trump added: "I'm telling you, the meatloaf is fabulous." ___Follow Nancy Benac on Twitter at http://twitter.com/nbenac
    Read More
  • FDR executive order sent 120,000 Japanese immigrants and citizens into camps
    Read More
  • Pruitt's nomination was strongly opposed by environmental groups and hundreds of former EPA employees
    Read More
load morehold SHIFT key to load allload all