Chris Russo was born Christopher Michael Russo in the Town of Oyster Bay, Syosset, New York, on October 18, 1959. He is the only child of Vera and Anthony Russo. His mother was from England and his father, who passed away in 2013, was from Queens. He was educated at a school in New Lebanon called Darrow School and then at Rollins College, which is just outside of Orlando, where he earned a history degree.
In addition, he attended Sydney University in Australia where he studied Australian literature and history. He also attended a semester one Spring in the UK at Cranleigh School. He married Jeanne Lavelle in 1995 and they have four children, Patrick, Kiera, Timmy, and Colin. They currently live in New Canaan, Connecticut.
He is a well-known and often controversial radio personality on sports radio. His on-air persona has succeeded in earning him the nickname “Mad Dog” for his many crazy on-air antics. Chris ‘Mad Dog’ Russo’s claim to fame came from co-hosting with Mike Francesa on their radio program. Their popular “Mike and the Mad Dog” sports show, was broadcast on New York City radio station WFAN and was also simulcast on YES Network.
In August 2008, Chris Russo joined Sirius XM Radio. Now he has his own radio channel, Mad Dog Radio, in addition to hosting a radio show in the afternoons entitled “Mad Dog Unleashed” followed by “Mad Dog Sports Radio.” He has also appeared in two movies, “Undefeated” and “Bad Lieutenant”. Here are ten things you probably didn’t know about Chris Russo:
1. He Started Out in Orlando
Before he was hired at WFAN, he was on WKIS radio in Orlando, FL. That gig ran from 1984 to 1987. While he was working there, Floridians had a difficult time understanding his New York accent, so WKIS sent him twice per week for speech therapy. Then, from 1987 to 1988, he worked at WMCA in New York.
2. He’s a Republican
Chris Russo is a Republican, but he is often critical of the Republican Party. This was especially evident when it comes to the Roger Clemens Congressional hearing. He openly criticized the position on gun control following the shootings at Sandy Hook Elementary School.
3. He’s a Big Fan of the San Francisco Giants
Chris Russo loves the Giants even though he’s definitely not from San Francisco. Being from New York, he calls the Giants the “new Yankees”. He hosted his SiriusXM show “Mad Dog Unleashed” and the “High Heat” show for MLB Network on-site during the 2014 World Series in which the Giants played the Royals and won.
4. He Got Help From Don Imus
Chris Russo owes some of his rapid popularity rise to another radio personality, Don Imus. When Russo started out, he was a fill-in host on WFAN. Imus noticed him and invited him to join his “Imus in the Morning” show as a sports reporter. Imus was also responsible for helping promote the “Mad Dog” nickname after Russo was a big hit on his show.
5. His Show Became the WFAN Signature Show
The stint on the Don Imus show led to Mad Dog having his own show on Saturday mornings. After the cancellation of the WFAN “Pete Franklin Drive Time Show”, Russo and Mike Francesca started September 5, 1989, on the new “Mike and the Mad Dog Show”. The new show aired daily at 3:00 pm EST on WFAN, making effective use of Russo’s humorous unorthodox style paired with Mike’s hard-hitting style. The show became an amazing overnight success and WFAN’s signature show, as well as one of the country’s most influential sports-talk-shows.
6. He Left the Show in 2008
He opted out of his contract on the hit radio show, with the agreement of WFAN, on August 14, 2008. At that time, he stressed that it was just a personal decision. He also stated that it had nothing to do with the fact that he and Mike hate each other. He said he wanted to try something new because he was 48-years old and that it had been a very difficult decision to make. According to some sources, the demise of the show was projected to hurt the radio station’s ad revenue, since $15 million was derived from the “Mike and the Mad Dog Show”.
7. He Sounds Like Donald Duck According to Imus
Russo’s manner of speaking very quickly, his expressive voice, and quick whistles are some of his many radio trademarks. In addition, his “Good afternoon everybody!” greeting at the opening of every “Mike and the Mad Dog” show also became one of his trademarks. His unusual gravelly voice was described by the New York Times writer George Vecsey as a bizarre mix of Daffy Duck, Jerry Lewis, and Archie Bunker. His voice was also once described as by Don Imus as sounding like Donald Duck on steroids.
8. He Signed with Sirius XM in 2008
Sirius reportedly offered Russo a $3 million per year multiyear deal and his show started airing daily on September 15, 2008. At the time, it was on XM Channel 144 and Sirius Channel 123, but now it is on Channel 82 on both Sirius and XM. They gave him his own show and, even better, his own channel, plus hiring autonomy.
9. In 2009, He Fired His Program Director On-the-Air
Russo launched into a crazed rant that lasted ten minutes on-air on July 9, 2009. Allegedly disturbed by the station ranking outside satellite radio’s top 100 stations, he verbally attacked his whole staff. The rant culminated in the on-air firing of Steve Torre, who was his program director at the time. He was re-hired later and the question still remains today as to whether the whole thing might have been just a planned radio skit.
10. He Re-Signed with Sirius XM in 2013
On August 28, 2013, the station officially announced the re-signing of Chris Russo for three more years. The new contract would start in September 2013. The deal was also set to include a daily hosting job on “High Heat”, which was a new baseball show. It started on MLB Network on March 31, 2014, with a simulcast on MLB Network Radio. In September 2016, Russo signed a new three-year contract with them.