Many people do impressions of Chris (Mad Dog) Russo, but Michael Benevento takes the process beyond mere imitation.
“I think when I’m doing it I become him,’’ the 36-year-old Massapequa man said after winning Sirius XM Satellite Radio’s Russo sound-alike contest earlier this month. “I feel like I am him. I know that sounds a little crazy.’’
Well, yes, now that you mention it. But Benevento’s approach paid off in the form of a $1,000 winner’s check in an upset over a final four field that included Mike from Mahopac, who does multiple local sports voices and appeared on Mike Francesa’s WFAN show last summer.
Benevento, who works in the program planning department at HBO, said he has been listening to Russo since 1994 and impersonating him since ’98, after an impromptu take on Russo drew laughs from his friends.
When YES began its simulcast of “Mike and the Mad Dog’’ in 2002, “it opened a whole new avenue for me from actually seeing him," Benevento said.
To date Benevento’s greatest hit is a 2007 video rendition of a Russo rant about Adam (Pacman) Jones. “It makes me happy that it affected so many people,’’ he said of the YouTube favorite.
Since Russo and Francesa broke up in 2008 Benevento has stuck primarily with the former as a listener. “I love the Jets and he just destroys them and I just can’t take it,’’ he said of Francesa.
Benevento had not met Russo before the contest finals.
“He said it was very well done, well deserved, and he got a kick out of all the family references I made,’’ Benevento said. “He asked if this was the end of my career impersonating him. But I might be inspired to do more now.’’
Sirius XM Soundalike Contest Final Four: Michael Benevento
Watch Benevento's Mad Dog impression on the Adam "Pacman" Jones rant
For comparison, here's the actual Mad Dog rant